City Paper is not for tourists
The soul-jazz on Martin, Medeski and Wood’s Friday Afternoon in the Universe could almost be considered polite. But that’s not to say that the NYC trio’s knife-sharp improvisations don’t cook. Percussionist Billy Martin executes funk, hiphop, and acid jazz beats with only the slyest flourishes; keyboardist John Medeski crisply approximates Hammond B3 master Jimmy Smith’s funkiest moments; and bassist Chris Wood’s gruff tone fills in the wide spaces left by his concise bandmates. The disc’s between-song, Sun Ra-style snippets of spontaneous music are playful, but occasionally unengaging, except when they’re incorporated into an actual piece as they are on “House Mop.” While the trio seems to be inspired mostly by the avant-garde scene of the ’60s, it pulls off the Ellington composition “Chinoiserie” with a respectable amount of swing, while “Last Chance to Dance Trance (Perhaps)” starts off with a ska beat before giving way to a tango that would make Astor Piazzolla proud.