MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD — Tonic (review)

MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD — Tonic album cover Live album · 2000 · Eclectic Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
M.Neumann
This year 2000 live set was a radical departure from the Brooklyn trio's already challenging blend of trip-hop jazz funk fusion. Setting aside their battery of electronics, the band reconfigured itself as a strictly acoustic, traditional jazz combo (piano, bass, drums), playing frenetic be-bop in the lower Manhattan club of the album's title.

The tightly constructed free-form jams (not a contradiction with these guys) cover a mix of original tunes and covers, from Coltrane to Bud Powell to Jimi Hendrix, performed with one ear (only indirectly, and from a distance) tuned to rock 'n' roll. Note the wide range of influences in their music. Note too how the Coltrane song ("Your Lady") is one of the more swinging numbers in the set, while the Hendrix chestnut ("Hey Joe") is transformed by reverse osmosis into the smoothest cocktail lounge jazz.

The scarcity of rock music dynamics might scare away any doctrinaire Jazz-Rockers, but the pure acoustic sound quality (achieved, amazingly, with only two microphones) only clarifies the unique MMW style. Strictly speaking, the album probably deserves an elite two-star rating (for confirmed fans only). But the music here is far too dynamic and exciting to warrant anything less than a solid four-star rave. As the title clearly implies, the album is not unlike a bracing slap in the face.
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