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Billy Martin/Wil Blades: Shimmy

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Listening to Shimmy , you realize just how responsible Billy Martin is for the Medeski Martin & Wood sound. Thanks to the drummer’s shuffling rhythms, Shimmy sounds a lot like an MMW record, but in fact Martin has found a new keyboardist to jam with, Wil Blades, who wreaks funky havoc on the Hammond B3 and the clavinet, often on the same song, often at the same time.

Blades employs spiky staccatos, sustained washes and liberal use of glissandos on the Hammond-fueled opener, “Brother Bru,” while Martin lays down a rhythm that develops in fits and starts. When Blades brings in the clavinet, on tunes like “Toe Thumb” and “Little Shimmy,” he does so not only for its singular effects but for its contrast with the B3. He gets “Pick Pocket” going with a drippy, watery clavinet timbre, then switches to the Hammond with the drawbars set to roller-rink perfection. Blades enjoys adjusting the drawbars; he constantly tweaks them while serving up a funky rendition of the traditional “Down by the Riverside.”

But there’s no sense getting bogged down in analysis. Shimmy is music for the heart, gut and feet, not for the brain. It’s a greasy two-man party that meets somewhere between the great soul-jazz records of the ’60s and ’70s and the funk-drenched jam-jazz groups of today.

Originally Published