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The soul-jazz on Medeski, Martin 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 lack passion. Percussionist Billy Martin executes funk, hiphop, and acid-jazz beats with sly 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-open 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)” opens with a ska beat before giving way to a tango that would make Astor Piazzolla proud.