8. Medeski Martin and Wood: Friday Afternoon in the Universe (Gramavision, 1995)
The Smith-McGriff tradition is more than apparent in MMW’s avant-funk-fusion music. Indeed, the high groove factor explains the trio’s success on the jam band circuit. But like any jazz musician worth his salt, John Medeski takes the tradition defiantly in his own direction, incorporating as much soap-opera accompaniment as sanctified church. There’s even some Eastern European rhythm worked into the funk of “Last Chance to Dance Trance,” and the psychedelic lineage makes an appearance on “Tea”—while trying to put a label on the aesthetic in “We’re So Happy” would just be a chance for self-embarrassment. When organ came back, it wasn’t going to sit quietly and behave itself.