In their nearly twenty year history, drummer Billy Martin and organist John Medeski have developed an acute affinity built on a shared rhythmic feel and devotion to improvisation. On Mago, they return to the duo format, the seed that blossomed into the successful trio Medeski, Martin & Wood (MMW). The eleven tracks crackle with vitality, as the musicians mine their seemingly infinite variety of grooves.
The aggressive burner "Introducing Mago opens the CD, one of the bookend free improvs. The musicians instinctually match their dynamic, tempo and feel shifts throughout, morphing into an established groove and then launching a freer salvo that eventually leads to a frenetic concluding exchange. The closing improv "L'Aventura is similarly fleet, with drums and organ skittering around each other as they rapidly test and shed ideas. Those hoping to hear the duo's wilder explorations will find them here.
The remaining tunes on Mago could comfortably fit on an MMW record. "Crustaceatron boasts minimal, slinky organ embroidery of Martin's percolating mid-tempo funk. An intriguing hip hop-esque break-beat section, complete with echo and production treatments, emerges for a distinct sound. Similar segments during "Bamboo Pants and "Bonfa set Mago apart from MMW and are more akin to Martin's various turntable sessions and "Illy B Eats compilations, on which Medeski also participated. The organist's "Mojet has a refreshingly jaunty melody that Martin plays off with a series of tasty fills. In bassist Wood's absence, Medeski holds the bottom end using the organ's bass pedals, giving an ominous underpinning to "Thundercloud for his strident flight. Martin's earthy kick adds plenty of low end too, particularly on the syncopated "Miss Teardrop.
Though there are few musical surprises, this doesn't detract from the feel-good romps unleashed by Martin and Medeski. The joy and enthusiasm in their playing is palpableand difficult to resist.
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