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Billy Martin and Socket: January 14 & 15 2005

Billy Martin

Medeski, Martin and Wood drummer Billy Martin presides over an even more subversive band of sonic gypsies collectively known as Socket. Comprised of such free spirits and downtown stalwarts as experimental vocalist Shelley Hirsch, violinist Eyvind Kang (who also plays bass, guitar and trumpet here), pipa player Min Xiao Fen and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, this improvised live outing captures the group in all its cacophonous glory over two nights at Tonic.

The opening “Purification of Wounds” reaches some tumultuous levels of Hendrix-meets-latter-day-Coltrane intensity, fueled by Shahzad Ismaily’s rampaging fuzz-bass lines and the polyrhythmic thunder of Martin and Grant Calvin Weston manning separate drum kits. Elsewhere, the crew settles into a more relaxed mode on the dub-inflected “Purification of Wounds (Part 2)” and the spacious jam “Magic Baths,” which allows Baptista free reign to explore all the colors and textures of his expansive percussion station.

“Transfigured Shelley” is a showcase for the otherworldly, speaking-in-tongues kind of vocalizing by Hirsch that listeners either love or hate. Martin and Weston reprise their ferocious twin drum attack on the opening to “Black Lamp,” which evolves into a churning 12/8 Afro-Cuban jam spearheaded by conga player Eddie Bobe. And they close with the hypnotic “The Dream Answers,” in which Martin incorporates some of his mastery of Brazilian rhythms on the kit. This is not easy stuff to take in. None but the brave and open-minded may enter here.

Originally Published