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Farmer's Reserve
Medeski Martin & Wood
Farmer's Reserve
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, R&B, Rock
The album some Medeski Martin and Wood fans love to hate, Farmer's Reserve, departs from the band's funk-based, organ-driven work to cut more experimental grooves. Even on a bread and butter day, MMW can be on the cutting ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Medeski Martin & Wood
Title: Farmer's Reserve
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Amulet Records
Release Date: 11/2/2004
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, R&B, Rock
Styles: Acid Jazz, Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Funk, Jam Bands, Funk Jam Bands, Jazz Jam Bands
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 680490101526, 803680983300, 680490101526

The album some Medeski Martin and Wood fans love to hate, Farmer's Reserve, departs from the band's funk-based, organ-driven work to cut more experimental grooves. Even on a bread and butter day, MMW can be on the cutting edge, but this mostly acoustic 1997 album, now offered in a remastered edition, is something else. Comprised of one continuous three-part improvisation plus epilogue, it's a trancelike affair that points back to the Art Ensemble of Chicago with its use of kitchen sink percussion effects and toy instruments, classic sci fi movies with its eerie keyboard effects, the minimalist school with its repeating sections and Charles Mingus with the heavy resonance of Chris Woods' bass lines. While this music may be an acquired taste for even the most open-minded MMW followers, it hangs together quite well and arguably is more compelling than the middling efforts from which the excellent 2006 CD, Out Louder, came back. --Lloyd Sachs

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CD Reviews

Not a typical MMW album, but great if you like free improv
Steward Willons | Illinois | 07/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Lets get this out of the way right up front - "Farmer's Reserve" is not a typical Medeski Martin & Wood album. It's not even "similar" to typical MMW albums. It's a highly experimental extended improvisation, and that is, I believe, how we must approach the album both for reviewing and for listening. I'll compare this to their previous work only insofar as it is useful for fans to get a sense of how it relates.

It's important to remember that for all the groovy/jazzy/funky music MMW makes, their roots are in the New York downtown avant garde scene (read: John Zorn and his crew). There is always this freewheeling improvisatory sensibility lurking beneath the easily accessible surface of their more standard albums, but massive grooves make it palatable to those unfamiliar with the free improv tradition. In this case, the grooves are basically gone and all that is left is free (perhaps loosely structured) improvisation.

Judged purely as a free jazz record, it's very successful. There are some great sounds, the pacing is good, and the timbral palate is larger than one would imagine from a trio. Medeski plays all sorts of keyboard instruments; Martin uses many percussion instruments, some traditional, some found; and Wood's basses sometimes sound nothing like basses. There are sections with repeating rhythm, but they're far removed from the groove-based material of most of their albums.

Anytime you're looking at an album-length improvisation, the key question is, will it maintain interest, or is it merely interesting to the people actually making the music? Improvisations can easily become inward and self-indulgant. They can be fun for the band, but not much fun to listen to. Happily, this improv is relatively easy and enjoyable. It might prove difficult for listeners who are unfamiliar with this style of music, but I'm sure any jazz fan that enjoys Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, or Peter Brotzmann will get a lot out of this.

Who should buy this album? If you're a fan of MMW's groove stuff, you may be disappointed. If you're willing to take a chance and spend some time with the album, you may find it grows on you after a while. However, if you're looking for anything resembling an organ/bass/drums groove, there's nothing to be found here. I think the fact that MMW recorded this in 1997 and didn't even release it for years is a good indicator.

If you came to MMW through artists such as John Zorn and the NYC downtown tradition, you'll definitely enjoy hearing this other side of MMW. It's one thing to jam in a funk/jazz style, but it's quite another to jam in this very cerebral manner.

Ultimately, if you're considering "Farmer's Reserve", I would recommend thinking about what it is exactly that you like in MMW. If it sounds interesting, you'll probably like it. If not, I'd buy it only for the sake of completing your collection. And, if you're a casual fan, I would recommend something (anything) else."
Great stuff, very avant garde, deep space music for the fait
H. Mcquillen | 09/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"To those who didn't like this one, I'd avise buying the rest of the MMW catalog first, something like Shack Man, Notes from the Underground, Tonic etc. are all much more accessible.

This was originally only available from the website or at the shows. It is deep space music. Who knows what time of day it was, what they were on, but it is seriously deep and weird stuff. It's good for late night listening."