This collaboration of percussion king Billy Martin and newcomer organist Wil Blades invites obvious comparison with Martin's main gig, Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Immediately apparent is that the same kind of unnatural synergy that holds together the aforementioned avant-garde power trio is present in this duet, too. Briefly, they experiment less and groove more. Martin's relaxed drumming drives the record forward, while Blades roots down (and gets it). Bass is, surprisingly, not missed here at all, with Blades brilliantly covering the low end on the B3's foot pedals. The only thing missing are contemporary jazz cliches: you won't find any changes for the sake of changes or weird time signatures just to be different. Every chord and every hit makes sense, and you can tell that they had a lot of fun recording. You'll certainly have a lot of fun listening.
In a word, "Shimmy" is phenomenal. This duo combines Medeski Martin and Wood's drummer with organist extraordinaire Wil Blades. Not a song on this album dips below the stratosphere. It's everything you love about funky, crunchy, cerebral organ jazz. The song writing is fantastic as every tune is a winner. The improvisation is so hot on 'Brother Bru' and 'Mean Greens' that the disc should come with a combustible warning label. Things slow down for 'Deep In A Fried Pickle' which showcases Blades' great sonic vocabulary. 'Les & Eddie' walks down a narrower jazz path, bringing to mind cats like Lou Donaldson, Grant Green and Jimmy McGriff. It is infused with gospel tones. 'Pick Pocket' turns up the funk and makes the tune a rockin' highlight. 'Down By The Riverside' features lots of those warm, wide organ chords. 'Toe Thumb' brings to mind some of Stevie Wonder's funkiest keyboard work from the 70s. In the style of 'Wiggly's Way,' 'Little Shimmy' channels John Medeski. Indeed, for Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW) fans, "Shimmy" offers instant gratification. As if musically recreating the experience of sitting in the sand and listening to ocean waves gently break on the beach, 'Give' offers a relaxer from the album's head bobbing, toe tapping energy.Read more ›
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I was lucky enough to see Wil Blades live at Chico's here in Asbury Park a couple of years ago. It was a Stanton Moore show with Will Benard on guitar and originally Robert Walter on keys. Walter couldn't be there and Wil Blades stepped in at the last minute. Well, these guys were locked in from the word Go. Truly one of the most startling and enjoyable shows I have seen (small jazz club, intimate setting, band cooking). The second set featured Anders Osbourne sitting in with the trio -- and this guy Osbourne blew the roof off the place. He and Moore had an especially fluid and powerful connection. I walked away from that show with my heart beating out of my chest, nasty grooves in my head, and no voice left at all -- but giddy as all hell. I also walked away from that show with Wil Blades on my mind. I must find this guy's cds, I thought, but I couldn't find any. And then in an MMW newsletter I get, there is news of Shimmy, with Billy Martin and Wil Blades. Of course I ordered it immediately and it has become one of my favorite and most played cds. If you're reading this then you know the type of music I'm talking about here. If you dig on this stuff, grab Shimmy. You'll be glad you did.