MMW Drummer Billy Martin Preps Groove Breakbeats

Vinyl-only, DJ-friendly release first in series on drummer's Amulet label.

NEW YORK — Drummer/percussionist Billy Martin — a.k.a. illyB, one-third of progressive Brooklyn jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood — has completed work on an album of DJ-friendly breakbeats, Groove, Bang and Jive Around, due April 3 from Amulet Records, Martin's experimental percussion label.

Produced by hip-hop engineer and frequent MMW collaborator Scotty Hard, and titled after a book by blind New York spoken-word poet Steve Cannon, the 13-track, vinyl-only release is the first in a series of breakbeat albums the label plans to release.

Martin described Groove as a collaborative project. Musicians and DJ/producers are encouraged to use the album's beats and samples to create original compositions for submission to Amulet. A double-CD compilation — one disc of Martin's beats and another containing interpretations of those beats — as well as Martin's own remixes of the works, is planned for later this year.

"I'm going to try to get some rappers, people like Kool Keith and DJ Logic, and I'm also going to throw samples in there and do a lot of cool stuff to it," Martin said.

This isn't Martin's first foray into DJ culture. MMW are known for blurring the lines between free jazz, funk, hip-hop and dance music. The trio scored a mild dancefloor hit with their 1996 LP Shack-Man and subsequent Bubblehouse EP, which featured remixes by New York producers We, DJ Olive and DJ Logic.

"Logic is the one who told me, 'You gotta do breakbeat records' — he's been telling me that for a couple years," Martin said. "I need to do it before I get really sick of playing straight funk beats."

In 1998, Logic guested on several tracks on MMW's Blue Note debut, Combustication, and toured with the trio through the next fall. In 1999 the band released its Combustication Remix EP, highlighted by Martin's own remix of "Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho" (RealAudio excerpt), along with remixes by Logic, Gang Starr rapper Guru, Dan the Automator, Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda and abstract remix guru Bill Laswell.