In 2001, Billy Martin
launched a series of live performances called Turntable Sessions. The basic idea of the program, which was held at various clubs in Lower Manhattan, was for a hip-hop DJ to interact with different musicians, including Martin
himself -- and those in attendance have been treated to what is basically a series of unorthodox, experimental jam sessions. Recorded from 2001-2003, The Turntable Sessions, Vol. 1
offers some of the highlights of the drummer's series and includes appearances by keyboardist John Medeski
(as in Medeski, Martin & Wood
), tenor saxophonist Marty Ehrlich
, and other improvisers. Essentially, this is a jazz CD, but it certainly doesn't conform to the rigid, dogmatic view of jazz that one expects from the Stanley Crouch
crowd -- this is trippy, eccentric, risk-taking avant-garde jazz that is mindful of hip-hop, funk, rock, world music, electronica, and even country. One of the selections, in fact, is an unlikely performance of Hank Williams Sr.
's "Ramblin' Man," which finds guitarist Mike Ill singing Williams
' lyrics while Scotty Hard
(one of the DJs) makes some hip-hop moves on the turntables. And that sort of open-mindedness is what makes The Turntable Sessions, Vol. 1
exciting; clearly, Martin
and his colleagues aren't trying to please jazz purists and bop snobs, who wouldn't listen to a Hank Williams
classic any more than they would listen to something by Anthony Braxton
. At times, the performances on this 46-minute CD become a little too self-indulgent for their own good, but then, a certain amount of self-indulgence is to be expected (and even enjoyed) in the avant-garde realm -- and overall, this 2004 release paints a rewarding (if brief) picture of Martin
's Turntable Sessions series.