Boy, is it ever. From the setting to the instrument to the very label it’s appearing on, John Medeski’s aptly named forthcoming album speaks to a different time — a time long, long before his more recent genre-melting experiments with the likes of Martin Medeski and Wood and Spectrum Road.
Whether this will appeal to fans of those very modern conceits, it’s hard to say. But there is a determinedly straight forward charm, nevertheless, surrounding A Different Time — which is due April 9, 2013 as the very first project from the recently revived Okeh imprint. Recording on a 1924-vintage piano, in a studio nestled within a 19th century place of worship, Medeski all but channels the legacy jazz label’s biggest stars from back in the day — from Duke Ellington to Louis Armstrong.
So meditative that even the totally improvised pieces (“Graveyard Fields” and “Lacrima”) have a diaphanous quality to them, A Different Time couldn’t be further away from the hipster groovefests we’ve come to expect from Medeski’s organ records.
Instead, there is a perhaps shockingly unadorned style to his playing, and that seems particularly so as Medeski returns to the ageless hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” and the old Medeski Martin and Wood track “Otis.” But even his choice of originals seems filled with gentle reminiscence: “Waiting at the Gate,” actually dates back to Medeski’s teen years.