Well into their pre-teen years, many children wonder what exactly causes the buildup of fuzzy stuff in pockets and belly buttons. The discovery that this is just lint is fairly unsatisfying, and frankly demystifies the magical substance.
Luckily, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, a jazz trio that charts the territory from back-beat funk to acid jazz and electro, have discovered that what parents call lint is really the fur of a quirky animal named “The Squalb.” The story of this creature comes straight from the mind of Lounge Lizards founder John Lurie, and is dropped in spoken word over a dreamy African Mbira (more or less a large thumb piano) which seeps smoothly into the sound of John Medeski’s piano and Billy Martin’s meandering auxiliary percussion.
“Let’s Go Everywhere” is ultimately a concept album created by MMW in cahoots with Little Monster Records as an expansion of the widely popular “Baby Loves Jazz” series on Verve Records. The idea behind the music is that, in Medeski’s words, “we don’t need to treat [kids] like idiots.” The trio has thrown a survey of jazz and funk at toddlers and their parents, from revamped sing-a-long staples (the rambunctious “Let’s Go Everywhere” and baby-fronted rap “Pat a Cake”), to the Randy Newman-esque blues shuffle about hygiene (“Pirates Don’t Take Baths”), and the Hohner claviola hee-haw of “The Train Song.”
Though some tracks suffer from lyrics that a baby might scoff at (“On an Airplane”), most serve the band’s intended purpose of giving parents and kids an alternative to Raffi and Peter, Paul, and Mary (or Hannah Montana…yuck). There’s simply no way a baby or energetic college student can resist bopping and drooling while listening to the crunchy bass of Chris Wood in the stop-and-go musical chair rendition of “Where’s the Music?” (complete with an antsy studio audience of toddlers shouting the song’s title at every break). Sadly, however, naptime may come early with the ambient instrumental lullaby “Old Paint” and baby samurai smash “Far East Sweets.”
Even though the target audience is in diapers, not dorm rooms, the college-aged and older will take pleasure in nostalgic sounds. More importantly, the traditional MMW fan will love hearing the trio return to the gritty, groove-oriented acoustic sound of the early “Notes from the Underground” and “It’s a Jungle in Here” years. Everyone else will find a new reason to yell at their parents — this time, for lying about lint. Sorry, Squalb fur.