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Published: 2012/05/23
by Brian Robbins

Billy Martin & Wil Blades

The Royal Potato Family

Shimmy – the debut album from drummer Billy Martin and keyboard monster Wil Blades – should be required listening for anyone wondering what kind of sound an organ/drums duo is capable of creating. When you’re not looking at the album cover to count how many limbs Martin and Blades have between them (just four arms and four legs total, boys and girls – but they know how to put ‘em to good use), the tightness of the arrangements on Shimmy will have you wondering if they share a brain. Having crossed paths on stage last year (including a fiery JazzFest performance), it was only natural that Martin and Blades sit face-to-face in a studio setting and lay down some tracks. Two very talented individuals having a good time together: that’s what Shimmy is all about.

Right off the bat, the funky stop-and-gos of “Brother Bru” establish the fact that Martin and Blades are here to play: Martin works hard without ever sounding too busy; Blades doles out B-3 that manages to sound familiar without ever relying on clichés.

The duo explore Eddie Harris’ “Mean Greens” and find pockets that would make the master himself smile, while “Les & Eddie” pays tribute to Mr. Harris and his buddy Mr. McCann with a joyous workout that would’ve felt right at home on Swiss Movement. “Deep In A Fried Pickle” finds Blades slathering heaps of tasty key goo over top of Martin’s too-cool-to-hurry groove; “Toe Thumb” vacillates between lazy-lidded funkiness and big-grinned handsprings of melody and rhythm; “Pick Pocket” is a little bit o’ N’awlins and a whole lotta rollin’ and tumblin’ joy; and “Little Shimmy” is six-minutes-and-forty-seven-seconds’ worth of slow-burn tension that eventually resolves itself in a pocket-emptying, cymbal-crashing shakedown.

Throughout the album, Martin both challenges and supports Blades’ melodies and colorings, while Blades digs sounds out of the B-3 and clavinet that’ll carry you from the Iridium to the Fillmore East and back. And that’s the key to the music Martin & Blades create on Shimmy : taking the classic-but-confining typical organ/drum duo sound out there.

You know: there.

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