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January 14th and 15th, 2005 – Billy Martin and Socket

Amulet Records 17

Someone gathered up the courage once to ask Miles Davis why he stopped playing ballads. Davis' response is legendary.

"Because I love playing ballads," he said.

What I'm getting at: great musicians do not play it safe. Davis could have recycled his Kind of Blue bag for the next 40 years and the critics would have loved it. Audiences, too. But he wasn’t interested in just going through the motions.

So, ten years after he shook things up with Kind of Blue, Columbia issued the edgy, electric (!) Bitches Brew. And, in one fell swoop, Davis changed music. Again.
Like Davis, Medeski, Martin and Wood's Billy Martin ain't no one-trick pony (he's much more than the funky drummer). And his new release, January 14 & 15 2005 (credited to Billy Martin and Socket), ain’t no Shack-man.

What it is: a dark, chaotic tour-de-force from an expert crew of improvisers. Culled from two nights of jamming at Tonic, Martin and friends like Eyvind Kang (violin, bass, guitar, trumpet), Cyro Baptista (percussion, voice), Shelley Hirsch (voice), and Grant Calvin Weston (drums, percussion, trumpet), have made a record of epic avant-gardery.

Violins screech, trumpets wail, drums are punished and speeches are made in languages that don't exist (yet). Grooves are temporary (a truly awesome dub collapses after only four minutes) and noise is king. Conventional composition is eschewed in favor of recklessness and experimentation.

It's beautiful, really. Especially Shelley Hirsch's deranged, wordless sermon on "Transfigured Shelley." If you're up for a challenge, plug into Socket.

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