Medeski, Martin & Wood have hit upon the "ultimate hybrid of the '90's," forging a distinctive style from funk, hip-hop, avant-garde, Brazilian and Cuban to the jazz styling's of Ellington and Sun Ra. Heralded by dozens of critics, MMW has cultivated a huge following thanks to it's series of top-notch CDs and celebrated live shows. Dominated by cooking groove numbers, Combustication features turntable maestro DJ Logic and East Village jazz aficionado Steve Cannon.
On their Blue Note Records debut, MMW move away from the diffuse, free form jams that characterized their 1996 release, Shack-Man
, but the organ trio's trademark free-jazz-daring meets groove-happy-funk approach isn't diminished by move. The return to the more tightly focused approach that characterized Friday Afternoon in the Universe
, may be motivated by commercial concerns (how many more Phishheads can they possibly convert?) but it's also a musical triumph; Combustication
is the trio's finest of their six recordings. DJ Logic's warbling scratches enliven "Start-Stop" and "Church of Logic." Poet Steve Cannon recites some appropriately fried verses on "What Ever Happened to Gus," and the band takes Sly Stone's "Everyday People" away from Madison Avenue and into the Southern Baptist church. But is it jazz? Well, as Lester Bowie once said to a similar inquiry, "It depends on what you know." --Martin Johnson