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Jazz Reconsidered

So maybe you're a little punk rawker, and you think jazz is that Chuck Mangione record your parents ran out and bought after the '80 Olympics -- the one with Chuckie and his trumpet flying off a trampoline in some NYC loft. That jazz stuff is either stuffy or cheesy or both, and besides, Medeski, Martin and Wood sounds like a law firm, so why bother to show up? Especially since there are surely a host of ripped-jeans-wearing opportunities on a Friday night in the big city.

Or maybe you're a stuffed shirt with a bitchin' jazz collection --all on CD, of course -- and maybe you've read something about these Medeski, Martin and Wood fellows in Down Beat, but they sound a little, well, wacky, what with their long-ish hair and Knitting Factory connections and fusion side projects and, you know, the concert's happening in some disreputable club with questionable bathrooms and a funny name out in the Warehouse District (where is that, anyway?), and so you decide you'd just as soon sit at home in the naugahyde listening chair with a pair of headphones and listen to Sketches of Spain one more time.

Fools.
John Medeski plays organ and piano, Billy Martin handles drums and percussion and Chris Wood holds down the bass. The proverbial body of work includes Notes from the Underground (hap-Jones Records) and the more recent It's a Jungle in Here (Gramavision). They've played Houston precisely once before, and the word-of-mouth fallout virtually guarantees a venue swarming with beer-guzzling critics and envious (of the trio's instrumental prowess, that is) musicians, if nobody else.

Medeski, Martin and Wood can play their jazz straight and they can play it funky, but whether they're tackling Ellington's "Caravan" in a manner that brings the warhorse back to life, working out on their own substantial compositions or merging Monk's "Bemsha Swing" with Marley's "Lively Up Yourself," the band rides an in-the-pocket groove with all the life of a pumping heart. It's been called "organic acid-jazz," and if you're too lazy to show up, you'll have to live with just the tag.

-- Brad Tyer

Medeski, Martin and Wood perform at 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 10 at Harvey's Club Deluxe, 2524 McKinney, 224-4278. Joint Chiefs open. $7.

Crit Picks:

Collective Soul -- There's a certain sick joy (along with the standard disgust) in watching unsuccessful metal bands don freshly ripped jeans and sullen attitudes in pursuit of the "alternative" gravy train. Stone Temple Pilots did it by cannibalizing first Pearl Jam, then Nirvana, and finally, showing their desperation, Alice in Chains, who are kinda questionable in the first place. Collective Soul has one hit worth mentioning -- the Smashing Pumpkins-like "Shine" -- and you can bet it'll hold a strategic place in the set list, because the Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid debut whence it springs is otherwise pretty thin. Friday, June 10 at Toad's on the Deck, with the Hatters.

Santana -- Not likely to be a surprise to anybody with a memory, but I just want to make sure no one confuses this with a dinosaur tour of the moldy variety. Last time Carlos Santana and band stopped in the Woodlands, plenty of folks apparently made that mistake, and so it was a less-than-full house that got to tap into the gorgeous vibe Santana's inspired band set loose on the hillside. Six-string lovers, of course, already know to be there, but if you've got an ear for fine percussion, you shouldn't miss out. Take a blanket and hope for stars. Friday, June 10 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Killdozer -- Corn-fed Wisconsin boys with sledgehammer guitars, bad attitudes and a wicked sense of humor. I've got a fond spot for Killdozer's old grinding opus cover of "Sweet Home Alabama," but the new album, Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, finds leader Michael Gerald and company in an equally feisty mood with a pseudo-concept album including Commie graphics and explanatory liner notes. ("This song tells the inspiring story of a youth, exploited by his employer, a ruthless newspaper distributor. Finally, the People's Revolution arrives, and the lad justifiably kills his boss.") Rich stuff, even if you don't like the likably knuckleheaded music. Steel Pole Bathtub co-headlines. Saturday, June 11 at Toad's on the Deck.

Duane Jarvis -- This California boy's got a tape called D.J.'s Front Porch (Medium Cool Records), and if there's a less pretentious hour of laid-back rootsy rock on the market, I haven't found it. Strong commendations for covering the Kinks' "This is Where I Belong" -- a song so old, and so damned cool, that Jarvis should get a medal for resuscitating it -- and for "Good on Paper," just one of several originals that make me all teary (and beery)-eyed for the glory days of locals Tab Jones. Wednesday, June 15 at the Satellite Lounge.

Also Recommended:

* Rick Trevino at the Crosby Fair and Rodeo, Thursday, June 9
* Kelly Willis at Rockefeller's, Friday, June 10
* John Gorka at Rockefeller's, Sunday, June 12

 
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