Continuing to subvert and expand the organ combo--stand-up bassist Chris Wood fills the typical guitar position, joining keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Billy Martin--Medeski, Martin & Wood have set their sights on the stratosphere with their third album, Friday Afternoon in the Universe (Gramavision). Their previous work masterfully assimilated all manner of divergent sounds, seamlessly weaving Bob Marley with Thelonious Monk and retooling King Sunny Ade while loading up on groovy originals. On the latest album the trio stretches out: frequent improv-heavy excursions accent the prickly, dynamic interplay, which builds into irresistible grooves and veers off into a mind-fucking spaciness that recalls the sheer wigginess of early-70s Herbie Hancock. They still offer lots of bluesy, feel-good romps--dig the gritty elegance of "Last Chance to Dance Trance (Perhaps)"--but the real excitement stems from the fact that they cover such a broad range in a heartbeat, and without any gratuitous flourishes. Their live shows are quickly becoming legendary, attracting a curious cross section of regular jazz fans, acid-jazz kids, and mindlessly head-bobbing Phish fans (though last I heard there was no nude dancing). Friday, 10 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 549-7700.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Martyn Gallina-Jones.