Tonic by Medeski Martin & Wood
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, John Medeski, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood clearly have in mind both a window on their roots and a boundary test. A bristling live album, Tonic
whisks listeners back to the trio's auspicious, acoustic-piano-driven debut, Notes from the Underground
, without even a glimpse of Medeski's electric keyboards. That the trio has made its name in music circles beyond the jazz crowd by using these very keyboards--as well as their trance-like rhythms and deeply involved jams--is largely irrelevant for Tonic
. The album starts off with cascading, chromatic rushes on the piano and steamrolls through an often twisting, even free-leaning topography with churning energy. Without the sustain and ambient effects of electric keys, Medeski attacks the piano fiercely, with the rhythms largely driving at the same pace. "Rise Up" is a killer, soulful piece, using a funky hard-bop core as its focal point. The trio closes with Hendrix
's "Hey Joe," delivered with a tender, sad calm. It's a fine coda to a thrilling session. --Andrew Bartlett