579

Medeski, Martin & Wood: Radiolarians I

By

Sign in to view read count


Medeski, Martin & Wood

Radiolarians I

Indirecto Records

2008



Devised for commercial effectiveness, the traditional record label model is precisely defined: artists write new music, then record that music, then market and tour to spread the word and generate sales. The model is predicated on compartmentalization and a lengthy timeline and most definitely not on leaks and theft—the thriving offspring of the twenty-first century accessibility of music.



But times have changed. With mere mouse-clicks, anyone with an internet connection can turn bottle caps into songs on iTunes. Listeners expect established artists to precede album releases with full-length songs on MySpace pages, while lesser known artists use cyberspace as a defacto record label to mount digital word-of-mouth campaigns. Major bands like Radiohead release an album and let web surfers name their price to download it. The boundaries between the writing, recording and marketing/touring processes are blurring; the old model is stale.



The Radiolarian Series is Medeski, Martin & Wood's contribution to the shake-up; it is their solution to the sluggishness of the traditional label model. With Radiolarians I, the first of three planned releases, they have inverted the normal write/record/tour process, making the album only after touring the material, effectively welcoming the audience into the studio. Pianist John Medeski writes that, "The way that things are supposed to be done is wrong for music, and wrong for the spirit of music... There was music before there was any (music) business. We're just trying to keep it honest, keep it true, and keep the real purpose of music alive." Unrealistically idealistic or not, at least these guys are willing to try something different.



Despite MMW's well documented penchant for hybridized tunes, Radiolarians I emphasizes homogenous ones, albeit as part of an overall musical melange that features electronica, rock, folk, boogie-woogie, punk and jazz-funk. As its title suggests, "Professor Nohair" summons the boogie-woogie and grand piano-funk of Professor Longhair in a tip-of-the-cap to "Tipitina" and its namesake music venue. Though the trio leaves the Professor's soulful crooning to listeners' memories, the song conjures up New Orleanian charm with its acoustic instrumentation.



On "Muchas Gracias," Medeski's melodica gets a long overdue leading roll, guiding drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood into tender folk balladry. Sprucing up the musical smorgasbord, tunes like "Cloud Wars" and "Reliquary" deliver the kind of driving bass attacks that anchor the rock and punk genres. On the opening track, "First Light,"the first few minutes are a token MMW foray into ambient electronica, creating a primordial soup of sound.



Although MMW's catalog is diverse enough to defy neat categorization, their predominant Blue Note sound was a brand of jazz-funk fueled by Medeski's keyed instruments. On Radiolarians I, through healthy doses of crisp grand piano, the trio consistently seeks new territory, dabbling in previously unexplored musical genres. Just one tune, "Free Go Lily," with Martin's patented percussive shuffle and Medeski's clavinet fills, finds the band in their familiar groove.



But Radiolarians I inconsistently delivers the goods. There are tracks, especially towards the end, whose meandering banality suggests they came from a blueprint. Perhaps this comes with the territory: in committing to three albums in under a year (the third tour in the series will occur in November), MMW runs the risk of diluting their creative output.



Ultimately, those unfamiliar with the seminal recordings of MMW—Tonic (Blue Note, 2000), Shack-man (Gramavision, 1996), Friday Afternoon in the Universe (Gramavision, 1995)—should probably not start with Radiolarians I. But for seasoned MMW listeners—and especially the show-goers (of which there are many)—Radiolarians I and its namesake grand project offer an appealing opportunity to sit-in on band rehearsals and participate in the evolution of making an album.



Tracks: First Light; Cloud Wars; Muchas Gracias; Professor Nohair; Reliquary; Free Go Lily; Rolling Son; Sweet Pea Dreams; God Fire; Hidden Moon.



Personnel: John Medeski: keyboards, melodica (3); Billy Martin: drums; Chris Wood: basses.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Indirecto Records | Style: Jam Band


Shop

More Articles

Read Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows Extended Analysis Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows
by John Kelman
Published: March 23, 2017
Read Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House Extended Analysis Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House
by John Kelman
Published: March 4, 2017
Read Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word Extended Analysis Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word
by Doug Collette
Published: March 3, 2017
Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Ian Hunter: Fingers Crossed" Extended Analysis Ian Hunter: Fingers Crossed
by Doug Collette
Published: October 30, 2016
Read "Snowboy and the Latin Section: New York Afternoon" Extended Analysis Snowboy and the Latin Section: New York Afternoon
by Phil Barnes
Published: April 21, 2016
Read "Dave's Picks Volume 20: CU Events Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO - December 9, 1981" Extended Analysis Dave's Picks Volume 20: CU Events Center, University...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 3, 2016
Read "Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent" Extended Analysis Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se...
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "Harvey Mandel: Snake Pit" Extended Analysis Harvey Mandel: Snake Pit
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2016
Read "Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)" Extended Analysis Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)
by John Kelman
Published: October 8, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!