Medeski Martin and Wood The Dropper

With their emergence several years ago on the club and festival circuits, Medeski Martin and Wood awakened an appetite, largely amongst white campus types, for deep, deep funk of a neo-Blue Note stripe. They've generally obliged with the thick, woolly grooves belching forth from John Medeski's Hammond B-3, but the deeper MM&W have plumbed in their funk the more they've become embraced by jazz and hip-hop - most memorably, perhaps, on Medeski's magisterial B-3 rumble on New Kingdom's "Unicorns Were Horses." The record will show that The Dropper is their crankiest, most difficult album to date, as they wade into pointy-headed jazz-funk realms, but that's only because they've burrowed more deeply still into the funk. As they tighten the spiral of their jazz-funk, the greater the centrifugal force trying to explode it. The most compelling thing about The Dropper is listening to them keep their grooves in one piece. The rhythm section of Billy Martin and Chris Wood hammers away even more aggressively than usual, but the beats, no doubt in part the doing of co-producer Scotty Hard, are as simultaneously stark, hard and abstract as just about anything on the Wordsound label. And while Medeski digs Being John Malkovich-style into his keyboards, guest musicians Marc Ribot on guitar and Sun Ra alumnus Marshall Allen on sax, as well as a string section on the closing track, "Norah G," have MM&W putting yet more stress on the vocabulary of jazz-funk. (Capitol)