Medeski, Martin and Wood presents the possibilities of jazz to a generation familiar with the iPod, text messaging, and dubs. While traditionalists minimalize their musical merit, it remains difficult to ignore the trio's profound connection with contemporary culture. It is all the more consequential when considering MMW gained their recognition primarily through grassroots avenues, without the benefit of corporate publicity machines their counterparts were afforded. And as much as jazz music's old guard disregards MMW's jazz worth, John Medeski (unedited and in his own words), Billy Martin, and Chris Wood not only endure, but profit from being "alternative."
All About Jazz: How's the new record coming along?
John Medeski: It's coming (laughing). It is almost done. We're just finishing it up. Because we're working with John King (Dust Brothers) and he's busy, so it is taking longer than we thought, but it is basically done and we're just getting the cover and the order together. Unfortunately, we thought the record would be coming out a little sooner, so we already set up a tour that we're going to be playing with The Roots and 311 in June and July.
AAJ: A preview?
JM: It is hard for me to put into words what it is, but I would say it is in some ways less expansive than some of the other ones. I compare it somewhat to Shack Man in the sense that the songs are shorter and there are less extended solos and things like that. It is music that when we play them live will, obviously, open them up more. Each piece is representative of a more condensed nugget. There's a lot of layers on it. A lot of layers are keyboards, but the drum beats and bass lines are definitely tighter and straighter.
AAJ: Although Medeski, Martin and Wood has received non-alternative press, MMW still maintains its core cult following. Do you attribute that grassroots dedication to the fact that MMW is essentially a touring band?
JM: I think part of it is that and I think one of the keys is that kind of artists we have is interested in music that keeps growing and evolving. It is what we try to do and what we do do. Each of us is working on new projects and new things and growing as musicians individually, so when we get together, we're able to bring new ideas and try to keep it fresh. A lot of new music is based on improvisation, so every night we play, it is different even if we play the same songs. Although the last tour we did, we didn't play one song twice the whole tour. Every night was new music. We really try to stretch, so people will come to several gigs in a row because it's not like a band where they put out a record and they're in there doing a show based on that record, and it is the same show every night and the same set of music, played the same way with the same solos. For us, it is different every night. We draw on our entire history of music together. We play anything from our first record to things that we create just for that night and will never happen again.