CD Review of Let’s Go Everywhere by Medeski, Martin & Wood
Recommended if you like
John Scofield, Wayne Horvitz, Soulive
Label
Little Monster
Medeski, Martin & Wood:
Let’s Go Everywhere

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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I
f the idea of a children’s record from a freewheeling post-bop jazz trio sounds ludicrous to you, your feelings are understandable – but remember, the kids who grew up listening to Raffi 25 years ago are the people buying Nickelback records today, so injecting a little fiber into your kid’s musical diet is definitely never a bad idea. Seriously, they’ve had enough of stuffing their ears with the goddamn Wiggles. They can handle a little jazz.

And actually, “a little jazz” is a pretty decent description of this album. Fans of Medeski, Martin & Wood’s previous recordings would be well advised not to expect the same level of experimentation and/or improvisation that they’ve grown accustomed to; instead, the trio (with a selection of judiciously chosen guests) veers smoothly between brief snippets of instrumental jazz workouts and (often comical) vocal numbers. It’s jazz on training wheels, in a nutshell, and 15 slices of heaven for parents desperate to get away from the songs of nightmarishly bright, corn syrup-fed creations like Barney or Dora the Explorer. ¡Adios, chica!

If the album’s construction is a bit of a departure for the trio, the spirit behind the songs isn’t. Medeski, Martin & Wood have built their cult based on an obvious, infectious love of music, taking acid jazz and fusion and making them…well, user-friendly, if you can believe it. Their records are full of fat, warm, organic sounds, and Let’s Go Everywhere is no exception. Granted, instrumentals like “Cat Creeps” probably wouldn’t be interesting enough to carry your average jazz album, but in this context, they act as between-course palate cleansers for impressionable ears.

Your little ones will prefer the vocal numbers, of course, and rightly so; they’re the most charming tracks on the album. Tim Ingham takes the microphone for the title track, and by the time he’s finished exhorting your family to “Let’s go everywhere, man / There’s lots of fun out there, man / We gotta have our share, man / Get out of your chair, man / Let’s go everywhere,” don’t be surprised if everyone’s on their feet. The album’s got its share of silly stuff, like “On an Airplane” and the self-explanatory “Pirates Don’t Take Baths,” but the best numbers are the ones that bridge the gap between the fun of stereotypical kids’ music and the adventurousness of jazz. “Where’s the Music” is an unquestionable highlight, a funky, one-chord groove that repeatedly drops out, leading the kids in the studio to ask – you guessed it – “where’s the music?” Toe-tapping reworkings of “Pat a Cake” and “Hickory Dickory Dock” will have your kids grinning in bemused recognition.

It all adds up to an excellent jazz primer for the toddler-to-preteen set, or – if you couldn’t care less about jazz – simply a wonderfully fun set of songs for the whole family to enjoy. If you’ve got kids, you know the pain of being browbeaten into listening to the same songs ad nauseam. Your children will probably eventually play this often enough that you hate it, too, but you’ll have a good time getting there.

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