Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Album Review: John Medeski's Mad Skillet - Mad Skillet

John Medeski's Mad Skillet
**** out of *****

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival brings a lot of talented people together each and every year. Back in 2015 a swampy late night Jazzfest set witnessed the formation of Mad Skillet. John Medeski and Will Bernard came to town and partnered with the rhythm section of Kirk Joseph and Terence Higgins from The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The one off result was so sweet that the group has stayed in formation, touring and recording their debut self titled album.

The result is just under an hour of professional mix of styles that is at once engaging and challenging, New York City avant-garde jazz mixing with New Orleans grooving brassy/jazzy funk is not the smoothest of pairings in theory, but the more the players spend time in your ears the stronger the outfit becomes.     

Opener "Man About Town" is a warm easy strolling jaunt around town to aquatint the team as the two Northern guests deliver competing solos, Medeski's is forward moving and aggressive while Bernard is more restrained and chill. Things really pick up as guest horn players (Gilbert Elorreaga: trumpet; Dan Bechdolt: tenor sax; Mark V. Gonzales: trombone, horn arrangement; Josh Levy: baritone sax; Jonathan Doyle: bass sax) arrive and fire up "Invincible Bubble" delivering a jolt after starting off the track in psychedelic fashion here the NYC/NOLA mix is delightfully apparent, those are the records best moments and they show up consistently.

"Tuna In A Can" is all about the groove as Higgins drumming leads the way and is magical as the other players do their best to keep up with him while "Piri Piri" also highlights Higgins excellent skin work and Joseph's bouncing sousaphone, this time pairing it with some hot bop piano playing from Medeski in a burner of a short track. The groups experimentation reaches it's the warbling zenith on "Psychedelic Rhino" which ups the freak-out style and may not be for everyone. This track proves the quartet are not shy when it comes to getting out there trying various forms, ranging long for extended workouts.

Two kick ass unique tracks are "Adele" and "The Golden Lady" which both successfully feel between all worlds. "The Golden Lady" is a strange mix of eerie surf rock recalling bayous, haunted houses and desolate shore lines while "Adele" is a spaghetti western theme waiting to happen which jumps up and motors. Bernard and Medeski are comfortable letting the Dirty Dozen boys deliver the groove, as they solo but the whole group are game to try new things and let the sounds flow.

The easy grooves/dance laden breaks of "Little Miss Piggy" and closer "Heart of Soul" both scream late night jam sessions whence this group was formed and where they still deliver the goods. However, for a studio effort this first self titled release is a joy to hear and from the sounds of it, a joy for all involved to create.   
Support the band, buy the record, catch them live, and pep some video below:

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