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Medeski Martin & Wood: Free Magic

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Medeski Martin & Wood’s challenge on Free Magic-their first live acoustic trio recording since 2000’s Tonic-was to apply their rampant experimentalism to a fixed format. MMW accomplishes that here by essentially doing what they always do, reaching outward for inspiration, only minus the electricity.

Rather than relying on organ and electronic keyboards to produce their usual wide sonic array, John Medeski incorporates toy and prepared piano, melodica and other variations on the acoustic keys; Billy Martin expands his percussion arsenal to make ample use of the African balafon (a xylophone-like instrument) and other exotic things to hit; and Chris Wood works the double-bass as aggressively and resourcefully as he does his electric. They’re more than halfway into “Doppler,” the first of Free Magic‘s five extended tracks, before they slip into a more conventional piano-trio mode.

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