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Medeski  Martin & Wood - Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 CD (album) cover

WOODSTOCK SESSIONS VOL. 2

Medeski Martin & Wood

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 1 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars For this unique, one-shot project the celebrated New York trio teamed with guitarist Nels Cline (of Wilco fame, but don't hold that against him) to record an album's worth of unrehearsed music in front of a small studio crowd of 75 lucky friends and fans. Strictly speaking it has to be considered a live album, but the audience was only there to help focus the band's energy, not to distract them with raucous applause (the guests are inaudible, but I'm still envious). So in a way it's also a studio album, albeit performed with exhilarating real-time freedom and all the synergetic vigor of a concert event.

The MMW trio has worked with guitarists before, notably Marc Ribot and John Scofield, the latter often enough to earn his own initial in the separate MSMW quartet. But Cline, who has his own extensive page in these Archives, isn't just another Jazz noodler. He's a beast from a different cage altogether, and for this gig he was allowed completely off his leash, dragging his three collaborators farther out than I've ever heard them travel before, perpendicular to any familiar style of Fusion toward the outer-limits of Space Rock.

All the music was spontaneously generated, but not in a Jazz vernacular. This isn't jamming; it's hardcore Rock improvisation, closer to the 'instant compositions' of early CAN or the free-wheeling 'blows' of '70s KING CRIMSON. Be forewarned: a lot of time is spent teasing a recalcitrant muse toward the next groove, and much like classic live Crimson the effort can seem a self-indulgent strain to listeners needing the life-belt of structured songwriting. I prefer to hear it as the creative process in action, plucked wholesale out of thin air, but it's really a moot point: when all four players are in sync, the music soars. And what's that old adage about the journey versus the destination?

I wish the album had been given a wider release, with more publicity: a logistical impossibility for the boutique Woodstock Sessions record label. After the career-defining "Radiolarians" trilogy (2008-2009), this set marked an almost shocking stylistic detour, from acoustic grooves to electronic confrontation. Don't expect an easy listen but, as any emergency responder can tell you, the punch of a defibrillator paddle can be good for the system.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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