Billy Martin: illyB Eats 2 (2004)
Be warned: this collection of beats and grooves is not suitable for regular listening... so if you're looking for straight-up satisfaction, look elsewhere. DJs, however, may find a nugget or two to be gleaned. The whole point of the exercise is to provide fodder for mixes and remixes. In today's studio music culture, brand new records like these are just as capable of fueling a groove as '70s soul jazz classics.
Billy Martin, of course, is one third of Medeski, Martin & Wood. Within that configuration (and its various collaborations) he's provided a steady hand on the drum kit, nearly always funky in an old school way without getting tight or constrictive. In fact, the looseness of his approach is a huge part of what makes MMW's pace seem so natural and downright groovy.
In 2001, Martin released a collection of beats entitled Groove, Bang, and Jive Around under the alias illy B, labeled as Volume 1 with a hint of more to come. Three years later, that second set of beats has finally come down the chute as illyB Eats 2. The drummer is joined by conga player Eddie Bobé, who helps round out the lower midrange, and there's a hint of John Medeski on "bleeding keyboards" therein. It's hard to pin those bleeding keyboards down, though you can detect them with headphones. (Yes, they're probably breaking some sort of contractual agreement.)
As for the beats, they're studio-tweaked (with overdubs and effects, including reverb and distortion), down- and up-tempo, and generally funky. I didn't put a metronome to these short tracks (13 of 19 are under three minutes in length), but presumably Martin's got a click track going in his head to keep the tempo precise for vinyl-spinning DJs.
As expected, some work better than others. The deliberate, utterly expansive "Pedestal of Ill Fate" launches the record with style; the densely structured "Tree of Truth" sounds like a swarm of busy insects; "Shacklyn" and "Lucky Charm" boil it down to New Orleans snare drum roots; "Wand Magic" is reductionistic without being naive. "Illstraction" gets locked in a deep rut (enough with the stereo cowbells already!); "Root Man" and "Embryo" sound way too simplistic.
For what it's worth, the better beats come early on in the record, and you can generally predict a whole track by listening to the first ten seconds. Not having heard Volume 1 of this pair, I can't say which is better, but this is not a particularly inspiring record.
Note: this limited edition release of 500 is available on CD and LP. "Use by permission only" and join in Martin's remix contest to appear on future Amulet releases.
Side A: 1. Pedestal of Ill Fate 3:50 2. Rocking Man 1:36 3. Tree of Truth 2:43 4. The Apprentice 4:12 5. Wish Maker 2:45 6. Jersey I 2:12 7. Invisible Path 2:20 8. Shacklyn 4:42 9. Sweeping Up 2:16 Side B: 1. Secret Bearer 4:32 2. Wand Magic 3:04 3. Pan Ninja 2:17 4. Lucky Charm 2:18 5. Ladder 2:04 6. Root Man 1:51 7. Invention Necklace 3:35 8. illstraction 2:09 9. Bam Bip 2:15 Bonus (CD Only): Embryo 2:33
Personnel: Billy Martin (aka illy B): drums, percussion (talking drum, slit gongs, caxixi, bamboo, cowbells, jigglesticks); Eddie Bobe: congas.
Record Label: Amulet
Style: Beyond Jazz