Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Music: It's All about Creativity; MMW Drummer Enjoys Eclecticism

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Music: It's All about Creativity; MMW Drummer Enjoys Eclecticism

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Marino, Times-Union music writer

In the past year or so, popular music has moved into the golden age of the beat, as evidenced by the meteoric rise of such producers as Timbaland and the Neptunes.

"The DJ or the producer/remixer has definitely taken the place of the rock star/guitarist/lead vocalist," said Billy Martin, drummer for experimental jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood. "And I think it's great, man, because it has to change up. It can't be the same all the time."

MMW are big into changing music up. Catch them tomorrow at the Freebird, and you might hear music ranging from snapping straight-ahead jazz to the avant-garde, hip-hop-influenced sound that keyboardist John Medeski has described as a "sonic colonic."

At the center of it all is Martin, who revels in his band's eclecticism and, through his side projects, takes the music one step further into the outer reaches. For him, music is less about melody than about tempos, textures, beats and patterns.

"I grew up thinking that drums and rhythm and dancing are so powerful in the culture that I knew there was a way to get that across to people," he said. "Now it's all becoming like a pop thing."

Which means that beat-men like the Neptunes can make the term "in-demand" seem laughably inadequate, gussying up records by artists from Nelly to Justin Timberlake and releasing an acclaimed album of their own.

Martin doesn't mind the "pop thing," as long as people are being creative.

"I'm all for anybody doing anything with sound any way that they can," he said.

Sometimes, especially with certain less-than-creative hip-hop producers, a killer original beat can get recycled from artist to artist. James Brown's Funky Drummer beat is the classic example.

Surprisingly for an artist so into creative discipline -- for a guy who says, "In general, I'm not into people who are lazy and weak and into being famous" -- Martin doesn't mind the beat-recycling phenomenon. …

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