Medeski Martin & Wood Releases Uninvisible


A new album from Medeski Martin & Wood, Uninvisible (Blue Note), hit stores on April 9.

With producer/engineer Scotty Hard at the helm for the third time, Uninvisible finds keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood and drummer Bill Martin taking risks and delivering admirably. The album’s recording process is the product of a band that’s spent much of the last year involved in other projects. Medeski recorded an album with the ensemble The Word, as well as logging studio time with Sex Mob, John Scofield, Gov’t Mule and Susana Baca. Martin started his own record label, Amulet Records, to release eclectic percussion albums by himself and others. Martin also organized the “Turntable Sessions” concert series at Manhattan’s Exit Art gallery, combining progressive DJs with some of the Big Apple’s finest jazz and experimental musicians. Wood toured and recorded with artists including drummers Stanton Moore and Bob Moses, and saxophonist Karl Denson.

Rather than composing pieces in advance, the band held extensive improv sessions at their studio in Brooklyn, and then selected pieces to develop and augment. “There’s something for us about the first time you play something,” says Wood. “Some of these tunes sound better if we just keep the original time we played it instead of learning what we did. That moment-of-creation energy, building from there, as opposed to trying to re-create it.” The band then held further recording sessions, bringing in other musicians to add layers and ideas to the music. When it came time to mix the tracks, Scotty Hard and the three musicians creatively edited and sculpted them into dramatic soundscapes.

From the gospel-funk of “I Wanna Ride You” to the spooky breakbeat atmospherics of “Nocturnal Transmission,” MMW continues to fuse uncommon elements into seamless compositions. Much of the album is visceral and laid-back, the music of late-night contemplation and coffee shop philosophy. Wood steps out front with his electric bass on “Smoke,” which evolved in the studio from an extended take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” DJ P Love adds hyperactive turntable scratches and samples to the warbling “Pappy Check” and joins guitarist Danny Blume and percussionist Eddie Bobe on the hypnotic “Retirement Song.” The horn section from Afro-beat group Antibalas spices up the album-opening title track and Nocturnal Transmission.” The closing track “Off The Table” begins with Medeski’s nightmarish mellotron before his echoing organ and Wood’s electric bass chords set a more relaxed tone, and the album ends as Martin’s steady beat degenerates into DJ Olive’s sample of two men playing ping-pong

Among the new ideas for the band on Uninvisible is the use of vocalists; while there is no singing on any of the tracks, “Where Have You Been” features humming and other flourishes from Crash Test Dummies singer Brad Roberts. And “Your Name Is Snake Anthony” begins with the renowned southern rock eccentric Col. Bruce Hampton telling a story, to which MMW, Blume and DJ Olive improvised an eerie soundtrack.

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