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Tonic Live

30 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Live, November 22, 2011
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Product Description

Tonic by Medeski Martin & Wood

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With Tonic, 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
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 22, 2011)
  • Original Release Date: April 25, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Live
  • Label: Blue Note
  • Run Time: 70 minutes
  • ASIN: B00004SQ2F
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,803 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Troy Collins on May 17, 2004
Format: Audio CD
For those only casually familiar with MMW, this disc may come off as somewhat of a surprise.The mainstream press has pidgeon-holed these boys as just another "groove-band". While there is definitely a post-hippie following associated with the group, they are at their core, a jazz trio. This is where their roots lie. And as anyone who has seen them live can attest, they are not swayed easily by the desires of their fans to play endless [body]-shaking encores. I have seen them live quite a few times and they always exceed my expectations for great jazz based improvisation. Past tours have generally consisted of an opening set of acoustic jazz trio exploration, followed by a second set of electric groove oriented pieces.
When they made their residency stay at Tonic, their focus was an all acoustic setting. No electric instruments. Back to the basics. This album contains the fruits of that endeavor. Within it are swinging jazz piano trio stylings merged with free form explorations and rhythmic vamps.
MMW sometimes have a tendency to dwell rather long on AACM inspired quiet free introductions to their sets, which often tests the patience of their hippie-fan base contingent, but here all the fat is trimmed. And after a brief introductory fanfare things are immediately off to swingland. Lee Morgan's "Afrique" is the first cover tune on the album. Coltrane's "Your Lady" and Bud Powell's "Buster Rides Again" also make welcome appearances.
You can tell they've been playing with each other for years. You can hear it in how they shift gears at a moment?s notice from sprightly walking bass, be-bop 4/4 rhythms and 16th note piano flurries straight into a maelstrom of modal ostinato bass plucking, free fill drum exhortations and dissonant piano swirls.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David, Brighton UK on May 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
listen to notes from the underground and then slip tonic on immediately after- mmw has taken a quantum leap in improvisational and compositional prowess in just a few short years. gone are the self-conscious attempts at integrating contemporary stylings into a jazz format. now the band confidently plays a different kind of juggernaut, concocting a stew that is indistinguishably their own. wood's acoustic walk on the chorus of "afrique" thrills me each time while their understated version of hendrix's "hey joe" breathes new life into a song that i felt was ready for the fm graveyard. and i haven't even begun to mention medeski's wondrously choppy, bombastic chords or martin's brilliant-as-always percussion. mmw has truly grown up on this album, showing that they can rock a dark house in the middle of an electric storm.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Read on July 17, 2000
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
While Eric Nisenson (see the book "Blue : The Murder of Jazz"), Tom Piazza, and others argue about the current state of jazz and the "jazz wars," Medeski, Martin & Wood have been pushing the envelope further and further for years now, seemingly oblivious to such squabbling. For MMW, it's all about the music. It's not about ego, it's not about solo time, it's not about being a band leader or having marquee status in the "jazz world." Every night, these guys are riding out on the edge, taking risks, hanging them out there, pushing further and further out, honing their chops, deconstructing, amalgamating, distilling. MMW knows, as Miles Davis did, that "jazz" (or perhaps it's better to just say "music"), is nothing without constant innovation. "Tonic" is an incredible document of the current state of MMW's constant innovation, but it is also more than that. To me, it is proof that this music we call jazz is alive and well.
"Tonic" is a live recording from the club it is named after, a very small club in New York City. The songs are actually pulled from several nights in a row that the band played there to sold-out audiences at the beginning of 1999. The intimacy of the recording is an achievement almost as remarkable as the music being played. Whenever I listen to this, especially on a good set of headphones, I feel like I'm sitting right there in front of the band. It's really amazing. This recording has surpassed my other favorite live jazz recording, the 1964 Miles Davis Quintet Plugged Nickel dates.
Listening to this gives me goosebumps, and that is not an exaggeration. Goosebumps creep up on my arms, back, and neck every time I listen to this.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
MMW is back.....and acoustic! Not since "Notes From the Undergound" have we been treated to the innovative trio in a purely acoustic setting. I'm a big fan of the massive groove of "Shack-Man" & "Friday Afternoon in the Universe," this is how I prefer my MMW. Not that the group's talents weren't displayed on their other albums, but you can't hide behind electric tricks on acoustic records! Drummer Billy Martin showcases his fantastic playing (some of the best out there if you ask me) without being showy, and the same goes for Chris Wood (bass.) Of course, to hear Medeski tickle the ivories is a true treat! MMW provide a masterful album that is well balanced with original material and covers (Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" for example.) Originals like "Rise Up" and "Buster Rides Again" strike awe in the ears of this listener. Just when you think jazz isn't going anywhere again...MMW come through with another brilliant gem.
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