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Medeski  Martin & Wood - Fly in a Bottle CD (album) cover

FLY IN A BOTTLE

Medeski Martin & Wood

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.00 | 1 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars The first official DVD from the celebrated Brooklyn Jazz combo is a handmade bag of mixed blessings. Filmed on- and (mostly) off-stage while the trio was recording the "Radiolarian" albums, the video offers an invaluable glimpse at the mundane routines of early 21st century music-making: rehearsals, repairs, equipment set-up and so forth, intermixed with occasional performance footage, both in concert and in the studio. But it's hard to imagine even a diehard fan watching it from start to finish more than once.

The project was drummer Billy Martin's baby: he produced and directed it, helped with the editing, and was responsible for much of the camerawork (camcorder-work, more precisely). The aim might have been to capture the improvisational nature of the MMW sound in a likewise spontaneous video document, but the home-movie aesthetic doesn't exactly flatter such an otherwise sophisticated band. Don't be surprised to find your attention wandering after only a few minutes, long before the boilerplate music-video segments showing the trio frolicking in a glade of butterflies, or the endless footage shot out the window of their travelling tour van.

Maybe the band's intuitive creativity can't be captured like the eponymous fly. None of the three musicians is very articulate, communicating best through the music itself, or in a barely audible verbal shorthand (no one was wearing a microphone). The presence of a camera, however discreet, might have also been an inhibiting factor. But the film becomes more compelling when it shows the music actually coming to life, sometimes out of thin air. Standing at John Medeski's shoulder while he tickles the ivories of his piano, or plucks its guts with a flathead screwdriver, is a privilege not soon forgotten. The astonishing grace and dexterity of his organ solo while recording "Broken Mirror" (from the "Radiolarians III" album) is the highlight of the disc, all-too briefly bringing it to vivid life.

"Some people are born cool", says bassist Chris Wood at one point, with self-deprecating humor. "And some people have to practice." Following the band throughout "Fly in a Bottle" (an odd title, by the way...wouldn't "Lightning in a Bottle" have been better? Or maybe "Fly on a Wall?"), it's obvious MMW works very hard to achieve their distinctive musical cool. But as filmmakers they could use a little more practice.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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