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Published: 2009/04/21
by Brian Farberman

Radiolarians II – Medeski, Martin and Wood


In recent years, the members of Medeski, Martin, and Wood have become quite busy outside of their main gig. Bassist Chris Wood is often out with the Wood Brothers, drummer Billy Martin performs in a duo with drummer Calvin Weston or with his free jazz ensemble IOOi, and keyboardist John Medeski can be found onstage with Club d’Elf, the guitarist Will Bernard, or the saxophonist James Carter (among many others). But the big wheel keeps on turning, and, somehow, the boys from Shacklyn are more productive than ever.

In 2008 alone, for instance, MMW turned out three separate albums of music. In January, funky toddlers all over the planet received Let’s Go Everywhere, the trio’s first children’s album. In August, fans of the so-called “downtown” jazz scene were rewarded with Zaebos, an album of John Zorn compositions (for Zorn’s Tzadik label). And in September, they dropped Radiolarians I, the first in a trilogy of unique releases. For each of these discs, MMW wrote new music, toured those tunes, and recorded the music right after the tour. So, instead of doing things the same old way (write record tour), they did what they do best: something different (write tour record).

And, judging by the sounds heard on Radiolarians II, the formula is working. As usual, the jazz trio that is never just a jazz trio but is always only a jazz trio is digging up new grooves, freaking them this way and that, and making you tap your toes from here to right over there. “Flat Tires” begins in a punk rock mood, replete with a scary-as-hell keyboard riff, but abruptly dips into a comparatively mellow passage, acoustic piano and all (the transition, one would assume, signals the occurrence of the flat tire). “Padrecito” is a slinky Latin thing like only MMW can do, and “Riffin’ Ed” is another opportunity to hear Medeski take his time on acoustic piano, and really let the music play itself. The album closes with another vehicle for acoustic piano, a take on the old folk song “Baby Let Me Follow You Down,” and then silence. The record is over, but you could always use some more music.

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