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Medeski  Martin & Wood - Combustication CD (album) cover

COMBUSTICATION

Medeski Martin & Wood

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 7 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars My thanks to author Edward Macan for introducing me to the music of MMW, in an appendix to his massive (and highly recommended) study of EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER ('Endless Enigma', Open Court Press, 2006). The book includes a critical selection of other keyboard-bass-drum combos, and cites this 1998 album from the acclaimed Brooklyn trio as an ideal example of their unique sound.

The band's first album for the distinguished Blue Note jazz label was, ironically, also their most wildly adventurous effort to date. Added to the trios already playful blend of roots (from be-bop to prog, and beyond) was an even stronger hip-hop and space-rock influence, with notably more electronic instrumentation. Credit guest star DJ Logic for the distinctive turntable scratches and oddball sound samples, but despite the radical update it's still a Medeski Martin and Wood album, always unpredictable and cooler than ever.

Exactly how cool is it? Name me another album combining trippy luau music (the traditional Hawaiian spiritual 'No Ke Ano Ahiahi'); a stuttering jam played over a lackadaisical spoken narration ('Whatever Happened to Gus'); and an almost unrecognizable Southern gospel cover of Sly Stone's 1968 hit 'Everyday People'.

And, after the aptly-titled album closer ('Hypnotized'), there's a hidden bonus track: a completely free-form improvisation mixing atonal strings, eerie organ chords, traces of Mellotron (shades of classic KING CRIMSON), and a furious bed of manic percussion and throbbing bass.

No, it doesn't sound anything like ELP; the tripartite configuration is the only thing the two groups have in common. But, as professor Macan himself concludes, with his trademark erudite understatement, "Fans of ELP (or seventies prog more generally) who are willing to understand 'progressive' as an aesthetic philosophy, an attitude of approaching music, rather than a fixed sound, will find much to appreciate here." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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