JazzTimes 10: Classic Organ Jazz Albums

What to hear when you need to get your Hammond on

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.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.