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Medeski  Martin & Wood - Free Magic CD (album) cover

FREE MAGIC

Medeski Martin & Wood

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.10 | 2 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Their first acoustic live album since the year 2000 "Tonic" finds the eclectic fusioneers of MMW resting on their gilded laurels after the ambitious "Radiolarians" project. It might be only a stopgap release to pacify fans who haven't seen a new studio album from the band in nearly four years, but you won't hear too many complaints: with the exception of a Charles Mingus / Sun Ra medley the music is all new, and the performances typically dynamic.

The stage recording follows the same general direction of their (mostly) unplugged "Radiolarian" cycle, and the lack of electronics preserves the wonderfully clear and uncluttered sound of those albums. The band was performing to bigger crowds in larger venues, somewhat atypically for an acoustic jazz combo. But of course MMW were never traditional jazzers.

Other influences continue to loom large: rock 'n' roll; roadhouse funk; grunge; blues; swing; avant-garde improvisation; trip-hop grooves; gospel; psychedelia; so forth and so on. These are musicians not above using a child's toy piano (in "Doppler") to achieve the right effect, or borrowing esoteric World Music influences when necessary: note the heady ethnic aroma of Turkish kebab drifting into the title track. That it all fits together so easily is a huge part of the eponymous magic here.

The selections are mostly in the 15-minute range, but half that length in each number is usually reserved for some very un-jazz-like atonal soundscapes: think of "Starless"-era KING CRIMSON, unplugged. The innovations of other MMW albums are lacking, but it's a solid set, showing a unique trio at ease within their comfort zone. The magic may be free, but the music is priceless, even when it isn't pushing back any new borders.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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