Billy Martin and Wil Blades wanna make you Shimmy. The organ/drums duo waste no time getting right down to it on their debut album due May 22 from The Royal Potato Family in collaboration with Martin’s own Amulet Records. Martin and Blades go old school in the tradition of essential organ-groove sides by the likes of Charles Earland, Brother Jack McDuff and Groove Holmes. Martin, the drummer for the legendary Medeski, Martin & Wood, and Blades, a much buzzed about young organist from the San Francisco live music scene, first came together for a low-key, one-off late night set during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2011. The music that evening was so deep in the pocket that the pair knew instantly there would be more shows together in their future. A West Coast tour was arranged for later in the year, which played to packed houses from Washington to California. In the middle of the run, Martin and Blades ducked into a Berkeley recording studio to capture what would become Shimmy.
“We had about seven hours to record as much music as we could and hoped to get a full record out of it,” explains Martin. “We were burning the candle bright, touring down the coast from Seattle. By the time we hit the studio we had about five gigs behind us and were well warmed up with the material we were developing.”
The electricity between the drummer and organist runs high voltage through tunes like “Brother Bru,” “Toe Thumb” and “Les & Eddie.” Speaking of Les and Eddie, Billy and Wil turn out a blazing rendition of Eddie Harris’ “Means Greens,” as well as updating the traditional spiritual “Down By The Riverside.” But before anyone thinks Martin has set aside his proclivity for rhythmic exploration in favor of straight-ahead groove, he demonstrates that the time space continuum is still fair game on tracks like the slinky “Deep In A Fried Pickle,” the jagged “Pick Pocket” and the swirling “Give.” Simultaneously, Blades takes this opportunity to coax some of the album’s darkest and most psychedelic sounds from his B3 and clavinet. The kinetic chemistry between Martin and Blades assures that while Shimmy reaches back to embrace the retro, the duo can’t help but push the tradition ever forward.
“It never crossed my mind to start a duo with another organist because I had just celebrated 20 years with my good friend and partner John Medeski. The last thing I wanted to do was make a commitment to another keyboardist,” says Martin. “But after that gig in New Orleans, I knew it was in the stars for Wil and I to collaborate. You never know what’s around the corner. With all the changes this planet has been through, you have to follow the signs when it all comes together like that.”
Billy Martin and Wil Blades will tour the West Coast in May to support Shimmy. East Coast and Midwest tour dates will be announced shortly.
Upcoming shows are:
May 24 | The Mix | Seattle, WA
May 25 | The Mix | Seattle, WA
May 26 | The Goodfoot | Portland, OR
May 27 | The Goodfoot | Portland, OR
May 29 | Jambalaya | Arcata, CA
May 30 | Hopmonk | Sebastopol, CA
May 31 | Kuumbwa | Santa Cruz, CA
June 1 | Great American Music Hall | San Francisco, CA
June 2 | The Mint | Los Angeles, CA
Shimmy track listing:
1. Brother Bru
2. Mean Greens
3. Deep In A Fried Pickle
4. Les & Eddie
5. Pick Pocket
6. Down By The Riverside
7. Toe Thumb
8. Little Shimmy
10. Dehna Hunu
Billy Martin & Wil Blades Shimmy is available May 22 on LP, CD & MP3 from The Royal Potato Family.