Medeski, Martin & Wood | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Medeski, Martin & Wood

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Though their music's been called "organic acid jazz," John Medeski, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood actually eschew samples altogether and use hip-hop beats only minimally. Instead they've carved out a chunky, groove-heavy concoction that draws liberally from the blues, R & B, and funk. At their core, however, is jazz. Organist/pianist Medeski, who's worked with Boston's Either/Orchestra and the Mandala Octet, pounds out an endless succession of hot licks and flowing, gritty improvisations over the monster grooves and percolating rhythms sculpted by drummer Martin, a veteran of the Lounge Lizards and Ned Rothenberg's Double Band, and bassist Wood, whose earthy, aggressive lines help dispel the notion that this is just another greasy organ trio. On last year's terrific It's a Jungle in Here (Gramavision), the trio traversed a dazzling stylistic range, pushing the deservedly maligned concept of eclecticism to its peak and still managing to succeed. To wit: a medley of Monk's "Bemsha Swing" and Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself" avoids hamminess while focusing on the strong syncopated rhythms and melodic kernels the tunes have in common. They also do a languid take on King Sunny Ade's "Moti Mo." But most of the time they stick with their sturdy originals, shuffling between irresistibly funky vamps, lyrical invention, and hard-driving grace. Tuesday, 8 PM, Thurston's, 1248 W. George; 472-6900.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alan Martin.

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