Medeski Martin & Wood: Where's Sly?
Medeski Martin & Wood
It's a Jungle in Here (Gramavision GCD 79495)
Steven Bernstein (trumpet, flugelhorn), Josh Roseman (trombone), Jay Rodriguez (saxes), David Binney (alto sax), Marc Ribot (guitar).
Composed by John Medeski.
Recorded: New York, August 2-4, 1993
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Upon first inspection, the modern jazz number "Where's Sly" would appear to be a horn-led session. The distinctive and pleasing melody, dominated by Josh Roseman's trombone, is brass heavy. If this song had come out in the 1960s it might very well have become a jazz standard. You could easily imagine J.J. Johnson, Freddie Hubbard or Dexter Gordon adding it to their repertories. But this is Medeski Martin & Wood, so you know at some point standardization will not be allowed. It isn't long before the music changes. Drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood play supportive roles in Medeski's composition. Pianist Medeski, on the other hand, takes it out against a backdrop of right-angled horn riffs. This conflicting arrangement shouldn't really sound good. There is probably some theory only known to Nicolas Slonimsky that explains why it works. I don't think Johnson, Hubbard or Gordon would have played the tune's second half the way it is heard here! Due to Medeski's good sense, however, the main theme returns from time to time during the musical melee. "Where's Sly" is more proof positive that MMW is capable of jumping out of its groove-monster persona to put forth a toe or two into the modern jazz mainstream.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky