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Medeski, Martin and Wood: The Dropper

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Over the course of seven proper albums, Medeski, Martin and Wood have traveled to lands as far flung as free jazz, experimental hip-hop and funk.

On their latest, The Dropper, they take stock of their various influences and come out with arguably their most solid record to date. The molten opening jam “We Are Rolling” kicks things off, with keyboardist John Medeski blowing in full Hendrix/white-noise mode, facing off against Billy Martin’s churning junglist drums and Chris Wood’s dubby basslines.

MMW are helped on this disc by hip-hop studio whiz Scotty Hard (Wu-Tang Clan and P.M. Dawn), whose attention to beat detail manifests itself in an even more refined groove (the skewed Latin underpinnings of “Partido Alto”) and loop-inflected textures. “Bone Digger” features disjointed guitar figures from Marc Ribot, and eerie violin samples, while “Tsukemono”‘s surging, otherworldly samplescapes underpin Charlie Burnam’s violin. Elsewhere, Sun Ra alum Marshall Allen and percussionist Eddie Bobe zig through the skeletal “Felic.”

When MMW return to familiar territory they seem even tighter than before: “Big Time” swings as hard, if not harder than anything they’ve recorded, while “Note Bleu” is an unusually straightahead soul-jazz excursion.

MMW are expanding on their concept in a lateral rather than vertical fashion here, bringing more depth rather than more information, tinkering with their now patented organ, bass and trap drum approach, adding subtle timbral touches. The result is another nonstop, head swirling sonic trip.