Medeski, Martin and Wood | Note Bleu: Best of The Blue Note Years 1998-2005

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John Medeski (keys, p), Billy Martin (b) and Chris Wood (d). Rec. 1998-2005
Medeski, Martin and Wood | Note Bleu: Best of The Blue Note Years 1998-2005
Listening to tracks from this "best of", it occurred to me that Medeski, Martin and Wood might be jazz music’s answer to Radiohead – underground, arty subversives whose music is irresistibly original. An equal love for funk and avant-garde jazz (Ellington’s Money Jungle remains a key influence) has propelled the explorative New York Hammond trio to some delightful musical situations. Yet their career goes back way further than this CD – their excellent output on Gramavision that produced the classic Friday Afternoon In The Universe is well worth a look.

So far their Blue Note career has been hit and miss, so I’m pleased that Note Bleu distils choice moments from their five releases – most notably several from the superb, hip hop-driven Combustication (1998) and ‘Hey Joe’ from the memorable Tonic (2000), an all acoustic affair recorded at the hip lower East Side club. But it’s a shame that the latter is the only Tonic track. Certain funk grooves meander, and by adding too many special effects MMW’s avant-indie music can suffer. Nevertheless, the dazzling ‘Sugar Craft’, a left-field hip hop gem with Sly Stone styled electric bass, and the jiggery pokery of ‘End of The World Party’ showcase John Medeski’s juicy/sleazy distorted Hammond at its best.  

Tom Barlow