Medeski, Martin & Wood – Let's Go Everywhere (2008)

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These days it seems that celebrities like Katie Couric, Jay Leno and even Madonna are getting into writing children’s books. But the next big trend might very well be children’s music. Jack Johnson’s little-noticed soundtrack to the Curious George movie from a couple of years ago was a pretty good example of how a mainstream adult-oriented artist can make original music instinctively for kids without dumbing it down, making it entertaining for the grown-ups as well.

And now, it’s acid-jazz/jam band kings John Medeski, Billy Martin & Chris Wood getting into the act with today’s release of Let’s Go Everywhere. But their entry into this niche came about a bit unconventionally. Wood’s daughter shares play dates with the daughter of parents who founded a record label specializing in children’s music, Little Monster Records. It was perhaps inevitable that the moms and dads would get together and come up with the idea of making a record their kids could get into. And so Let’s Go Everywhere was born.

Themed on adventure and travel, Medeski, Martin and Wood used mostly new material for Let’s Go Everywhere, only resorting to the tried and true nursery rhymes and other old standbys for four of the fifteen tracks. So already, the veteran threesome gets some points for originality.

As we previously discussed, MMW is a seriously good jam band but they’ve managed to stay grounded by including some fun, humor and child-like simplicity in their music, on some records more than others. And so even though Let’s Go Everywhere is a departure from their normal selves in that they are directing their songs to children and vocals are present in about half the tunes, they lose none of their musicality, wonderful sense of rhythm and campiness. You could even say that those attributes are even more present on this record.

It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure, and since it takes more to hold a little person’s attention, there’s also the added importance of changing things up more than usual. Medeski, Martin & Wood seem to understand such challenges, and have used different tricks to keep the rugrats entertained.

Thus, “Where’s The Music” is a soul-funk jam turned into a children’s game by stopping abruptly repeatedly, prompting calls from kids shouting “where the music?” at each stop. The old nursery rhyme “Pat A Cake” is recited by children while Billy Martin lays down the funkiest rhythms ever applied to these old poems. The same goes for their treatment of “Hickory Dickory Dock.”

“The Squalb” is a narration set to music that tells kids of the “mystery” behind pocket lint. “All Around The Kitchen” is redone with the lyrics replaced with the busy sounds of kids experimenting with cooking in the kitchen.

The songs with lyrics sung by various lead vocalists generate a lot of smiles, too. Any child with a desire to fly can relate to the little one’s plea to his parents to fly “On An Airplane.” “Pirates Don’t Take Baths” has a jaunty melody with funny lyrics about a boy whose pirate smell got him a lot of involuntary bathings.

But the title tune is arguably the most enjoyable. Lead vocalist Tim Ingham skillfully navigates reciting through the litany of real and fictional destinations while a chorus of kids back him on the hip refrain. All the while, MMW is laying down a funky, clappable electric piano vibe.

Truth is, the songs involving children and/or a grown-up lead vocalist are so creatively done, the instrumentals virtually become interludes that you impatiently wait through to get to the really engaging stuff. Thankfully, though, none of the instrumentals except for the last one is more than three minutes long. That last one, the closing “We’re All Connected,” has a more mature melody set to a bossa nova beat but is given a child-like rendition by Medeski’s toy piano and a child adding wordless vocals.

Just as Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown television specials introduced generations of kids to straight jazz, MMW now seeks to expose them to the joys of acid jazz. The music might sound just a little too grown up for tots in spots, but it’s probably never too early to demonstrate good grooves and this record’s got a lot more of those than any other record directed at the kindergarten crowd. And Mom and Dad can dig it just as much as their kids. Maybe that was what Medeski, Martin and Wood had intended all along.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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