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Monday, April 14, 2008

Medeski Martin & Wood

Let's Go Everywhere (MRI)

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Once purveyors of traditional Jimmy Smith-esque, Verve!-era, dusty Hammond B-3 grooves, Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW) started down the avant-garde road of experimentation with 2000's The Dropper, dropped X for 2002's Uninvisible and had seemingly forgotten their organ-trio roots completely by 2004's End of the WorldParty. Which is maybe why a complete digression back to their musical womb—in the form of a children's album—shouldn't be that surprising.

Instrumental interludes—gentle, curious, perfect segues between sleepy time and playtime—break up humorous tales ("Pirates Don't Take Baths") and straight-ahead grooves ("Let's Go," the great, funky "Where's the Music"). Kid choruses and individual performances abound, nowhere as irresistible and happy as the title track, a forward-looking antithesis to Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" that offers the slinky strut that first made the band so popular with both jazz-hipsters and jam-rockers.

Here's hoping that MMW will take a cue from what all of the hippest kindergarteners will soon have on their iPods, and continue in their newfound direction. After all, the offerings from the kid's menu aren't as Medeski-lite as one might think, but simply a friendlier brand of the acid jazz the boys used to explore—dance, funk and good-timey.

And while a reviewer could never in good conscience recommend herbal enhancement for an intensified baby-sitting gig, this might make for the perfect soundtrack.