Keys to the Kingdom
Magnets sucking sound from bumpy little whirling wheels. Barely technology, closer to voodoo, but that’s what makes the old Hammond B3 organ boil, and only mystic priests can get the steam rising. All praise to the late Jimmy Smith, to Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, and to the weirdest conjurer of them all, John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood.
MM&W are MSM&W for their new Out Louder, the “S” being guitarist John Scofield, the jazz funkateer under whose generalship they cranked out the bootocratic A Go Go back in ’98. They’ll be touring together later in the year, but no such combo visits L.A.; we gotta be happy with separate manifestations — MM&W this week, and Scofield pushing his worthy Ray Charles tribute at Royce October 14. Xmas twice, really.
Must say, though, special shit happens with the quartet. While MM&W always cook (Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood have stirred the same Mardi Gras mess with no sign of staleness for 15 years), Scofield adds something like a big redfish — flesh, spine and head. Here’s Medeski, king of murk, up to his elbows in the rhythmic jerk and harmonic spice of his B3 and other keys, and ain’t nobody you’d rather space out with. Then along comes Scofield with his stanky little riffs, his wah-wah squonk and his slipslidy leads, tossing you a rope while the animal-tranquilizer funk, New Orleans bump and tail-dragging blues rage all around.
No complaints about the trio: Especially live, Medeski Martin & Wood represent something akin to Truth, a paradigm of what can happen when you stick 10,000 volts in a bucket of mud. Which is how God made Adam.
Medeski Martin & Wood play the Henry Fonda Theater, Wed., Sept. 27.
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You bet your ass Brian Auger also travels with a 400-pound B3. The Brit keysman can’t pay the shipping fees with royalties for the Dylan-Danko tune “This Wheel’s on Fire,” the theme song of Absolutely Fabulous; its singer, Julie Driscoll, re-recorded it for the show long after she and Auger’s Trinity scored the 1968 hit. The anvil-jawed Auger got jazzier in the ’70s with his Oblivion Express, whose soul rhythmatism is getting reheard with the reissue of ’73’s Closer to It. And now he’s reviving Oblivion with a band featuring son Karma, daughter Savannah and bassist Mark Meadows. In the ’60s, dude played with John McLaughlin, Jimmy Page and Rod Stewart, so his standards are Olympian. New stuff? Old? He’ll play both.
Speaking of old, if you ever dug The James Gang and missed Joe Walsh,Jimmy Fox and Dale Peters riding again at the Gibson a couple of weeks ago (Hammond onboard), you should kill yourself. Eternal groove.?
Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express plays the Baked Potato, Fri.-Sat., Sept. 22-23.
For those who hanker for still more Hammond and happen to be visiting Fullerton, the pontifical Joey DeFrancesco and the sparkling bop clarinetist Mort Weiss front a quartet at Steamers, Fri.-Sat., Sept. 22-23.