Billy Martin's WICKED KNEE
Martin, for the past two decades the drummer of the genre-busting trio Medeski Martin & Wood, wanted his new project to be something completely different from what his fans are accustomed to hearing from him. With a lineup consisting solely of trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, tuba player Marcus Rojas, trumpeter Steven Bernstein and Martin serving as his own rhythm section, comparisons to anything that have come before are unlikely. Martin calls Wicked Knee "ragtime funk," and one listen to the band's debut self-titled six-song (plus bonus track) EP confirms that his description is spot-on.
"Wicked Knee," says Martin, "is cathartic, heart-based and primarily intended for situations that invite people to let go, throw down, get down and have fun. And we add avant-garde interludes as release and tension."
Martin came up with Wicked Knee's unusual configuration because, he explains, "I have always wanted to work with brass and drums but never had the time or the nerve to make it happen. I knew I had it when I asked Steven to help me get a few players together for Life on Drums (Martin's educational, anti-instructional DVD out on Vongole Films). I wanted to have some brass with a previously recorded drumbeat. That ended up in the film as 'Muffaletta,' a very short last performance. After finishing that project I realized this was my new band. I have listened to a lot of field recordings from all over the African continent and there are very powerful groups that use horns or wind and drums. That's what got me excited initially."
Prior to forming Wicked Knee, Martin had worked on several projects with Bernstein, who is highly respected within New York's downtown scene and beyond, with his groups Sex Mob and the Millennial Territory Orchestra, and as a sideman with a long list of diverse artists ranging from Aretha Franklin and Sting to jazzmen Sam Rivers and Roswell Rudd. Martin had only performed a few times with Rojaswhose credits include his bands Spanish Fly and Les Miserables Brass Band, as well as gigs with Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Queen Latifa and many othersmostly in live performances. Fowlkes, a longtime fixture on the New York scene, who has performed with the Lounge Lizards, the Jazz Passengers, Charlie Haden, John Zorn and others, was the perfect player to round out the lineup.
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