Music Reviews

Medeski Martin and Wood

Last Chance to Dance Trance (perhaps) – Best Of (1991-1996)


Medeski Martin and Wood can jazz with the best of them. They can rock with the best of them. They can funk, groove, vamp, comp, squeeze the little trigger on the toy raygun, do whatever it takes – with the best of them. Pick a track at random, and you’re sure to find a rockism that fails to offend the jazz purist, and a subtle melodic nuance that can shake the paint off the walls, no Marshall required. And in an era of machine-generated dance music, they’ve produced a groove more powerful than any amount of jiggled quantizing and late nights in front of a computer monitor could ever produce.

For example, “Bubblehouse” begins with an accelerating choogling organ riff, courtesy of John Medeski, which builds with Billy Martin’s precision drum strikes and Chris Wood’s on-the-money bass into an all-out limb-flailing frenzy. As it started, it ends, winding down back to the pumping organ riff that begat it all.

The title track is perhaps best representative of what MM+W can accomplish. Like a lounge jazz band that’s been palmed a holy twenty to play God’s fave, “Last Chance to Dance Trance” alternates between solo turns and triumphant returns to the overwhelming melodic center of the song, a churning fountain of organ wobble.

For completists already familiar with the band, there’s remixed versions of “The Lover” and “Where’s Sly?” along with a previously unreleased live “Nigh Marchers.” A fitting aggregation of tracks from one of the most innovative bands to come out of the decade; something for the novice, something for the fan.

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