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The Dropper (2000)

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Medeski, Martin & Wood

Drifting back closer to the avant-garde territory that they cut their teeth on, Medeski, Martin & Wood explore percolating sonic textures on The Dropper. Released by Blue Note in late 2000, the jazz trio's seventh album is a complex blend of Latin jazz, haunting soundscapes, hip-hop grooves, and John Medeski's trademark organ funk. The group is assisted on several tracks by guitarist Marc Ribot and the fourth instrument serves to add another layer to the eclectic mix, at times getting buried beneath the sampled loops and B-3 dirt.

Recorded in the band's Brooklyn studio, Shacklyn, and co-produced by acclaimed hip-hop engineer Scotty Hard (Wu-Tang Clan, P.M. Dawn, Kool Keith), The Dropper exudes a streetwise, gritty vibe almost like the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique without the clever references. In fact, several of the 13 tracks on this album ("Philly Cheese Blunt," "Big Time") could be slipped into Check Your Head or the second half of Ill Communication and nobody would know. The less immediately funky tracks, like the avant-rhumba "Partido Alto" or the chilling final track "Norah 6" (accompanied by a sighing string section) may not appeal to the baseball capped Ninja Tune aficionados or the groove-seeking neo-deadheads, but fans of their early works in the New York experimental jazz-fusion scene will find several points of interest. While The Dropper is less immediately accessible than many of their previous albums, it ends up being more sonically rewarding, continuing to blur the lines between jazz, rock, and funk.