In retrospect, it was inevitable; why it took so long for veteran jazz jam band Medeski, Martin & Wood to get together with Nels Cline is anybody's guess. The über-guitarist has, since joining Wilco a decade ago, managed to significantly raise his visibility, but anybody who suggests that he's been moonlighting" in the alt-country/alt-rock/alt-alt band to pay the rent hasn't been paying attention. Like keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood, Cline's career has been largely associated with jazz--well, before Wilco, that is; that's all changed now--through his lengthy association with Cryptogramophone Records and albums with his ...read more
Free Magic: Live is the first release of by trio Medeski Martin & Wood from its third decade of existence. Maybe I should repeat that. This disc is by a jazz band that has remained intact for more than 21 years. Like a family, the trio has born musical genres, specifically the infamous jamband phenomena, matured, and branched out from electric to eclectic.Perhaps MMW's greatest contribution to modern jazz was its DIY touring philosophy. Like punk bands of the 1980s, MMW often toured unsupported (by a record companies), playing gigs in bars and on college campuses, then packing ...read more
Progressive keyboard trio Medeski, Martin & Wood has helped redefine the boarder where musical genres meet since the group's inception over 20 years ago. MMW has experimented with everything from song structure to acoustic-electric instrumental blends, all while appealing to both jazz-specific and mainstream audiences. Free Magic (Indirecto, 2012) is a fine example of MMW's exploratory spirit.Free Magic is five tracks of extended play taken from performances in 2007, when the band was on its first ever all-acoustic tour. The album starts with the earthy sounds of percussionist Billy Martin's balafon and ends with a laidback medley of ...read more
Medeski, Martin & Wood20Indirecto Records2012In an ongoing celebration of its twentieth anniversary, Medeski Martin & Wood released twenty original recordings in digital form over the course of 2011. Sequenced in the order in which the tracks were released, the collection as a whole flows with the expert pacing of an MMW performance and, in truth, with much the same artful pacing as their best studio albums, such as Combustication (Blue Note, 1999).20 is just the most recent exercise in willful discipline on the part of this forward-thinking trio. The Radiolarians ...read more
Medeski Martin & WoodRadiolarians: The Evolutionary SetIndirecto Records2009 In an age when jazz is usually driven by individuals and fleeting lineups, the ability of Medeski, Martin and Wood (MMW) to sustain and reinvigorate their collective creativity for nearly 20 years is astounding. Never risk-averse--whether jamming with turntablists or flouting expectations with an all-acoustic record and tour--they've kept the music fresh for themselves and their listeners. So it wasn't surprising when MMW took another tack for their Radiolarians series. They approached the process more like an emerging band than ...read more
Medeski Martin & WoodRadiolarians: The Evolutionary SetIndirecto Records2009 Medeski, Martin & Wood is always going a little further, whether it's in the course of a live performance, a studio recording or the aesthetics of its music. Accordingly, Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set is both metaphor for the group's restless ambition and a tangible product of it. This box set of five CDs, a double set of vinyl LPs and a DVD extends The Radiolarians Series" of 2008-2009 in the form of additional audio recordings (in concert and in the studio), ...read more
Medeski Martin & Wood Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set Indirecto Records 2009 Released over the last year, Medeski, Martin & Wood's three-part Radiolarians series bucked the longstanding and conventional trend of writing > recording > touring. Touring material before documenting it on record isn't exactly new, but few if any artists have done so with such an extensive repertoire--three hours of new material, all taken on the road and honed before MMW ever set foot in a recording studio to lay the tracks down. That there's such a tremendous benefit to changing the model ...read more
The concept behind Medeski, Martin and Wood's Radiolarian Series isn't wholly new to the forward-thinking trio. They spent the better part of a year or more playing pieces live that would come to comprise their Blue Note adieu, 2004's End of the World Party (Just in Case) (2004). But this yearlong project involves a quicker turnaround from composing, to touring, and then to recording.
Like MMW's previous 2008 release, Zaebos: Book of Angels (Tzadik), Radiolarians 1 benefits from a straightforward production. It's easy to imagine the trio playing the eerie, appropriately titled opening, First Light," onstage as the beginning of ...read more
Medeski, Martin & WoodRadiolarians IIndirecto Records2008Devised for commercial effectiveness, the traditional record label model is precisely defined: artists write new music, then record that music, then market and tour to spread the word and generate sales. The model is predicated on compartmentalization and a lengthy timeline and most definitely not on leaks and theft--the thriving offspring of the twenty-first century accessibility of music. But times have changed. With mere mouse-clicks, anyone with an internet connection can turn bottle caps into songs on iTunes. Listeners expect established ... read more
Master improvisers that they are, Medeski, Martin and Wood nevertheless do nothing without purpose. Their participation in John Zorn's Masada Series is just such a decisive action.
Zaebos: The Book of Angels Vol. 11 was recorded in January and March of 2008, just prior to MMW's announcement of its year-long project dubbed The Radiolarian Series" (whereby the group would compose, play live, then record three different batches of new original material). Thus, to take part in Zorn's exploration of his musical heritage, while not wholly unlike what the trio does on its own, nevertheless affords a certain healthy detachment from ...read more
Composer John Zorn has entered what could cautiously be referred to as his mature period. His early game pieces have given way to neoclassical works heavily influenced by modernists such as Boulez, Ligeti and Xenakis, while his Hassidic-inspired Masada projects have gained him unprecedented mainstream popularity. Masada has roots deeper than its recorded history however; before the original acoustic Masada quartet, there was the Thieves Quartet.
Zorn's score for Joel Chappelle's 1994 film noir, Thieves Quartet, utilized the same line-up that would eventually become known as Masada. On subsequent tours, that small, but talented roster occasionally included John ...read more
Throughout their decade-and-a-half-long career together, Medeski, Martin & Wood have managed to straddle many difficult boundaries. They have all the trappings of a jam-band, but maintain an avant-garde appeal. They keep a large cadre of fans around the globe, even as their inventiveness and pursuit of new sounds make them seem like they should be difficult to latch onto.
With the new children's album Let's Go Everywhere, MMW is again bridging a gap, and a particularly thorny one in jazz circles: the apparent distance between inexperienced and veteran listeners. From the album art to the song titles ("The Squalb" and ...read more
Medeski, Martin & Wood Let's Go Everywhere Little Monster Records 2008
Roll over Raffi and boogie on out Barney... Medeski, Martin & Wood are now cutting kids' records. Though best known for a brand of jazz that attracts 20-somethings, the Brooklyn-based trio shows with Let's Go Everywhere that jazz hybridized with elements of avant-garde, funk, trance, rock and hip-hop is also suited to seven-year-olds.
Appropriately co-conceived while bassist Chris Wood and Little Monster Records co-founder, Kate Hyman, watched their children during a play date, Let's Go Everywhere reflects family-room roots, featuring danceable, ...read more
Teaming the poster children for contemporary bass/drum/organ groove (Chris Wood, Billy Martin, and John Medeski, respectively) with John King, the producer of such twisted GenX pop classics as Odelay (Beck) and Paul's Boutique (Beastie Boys), updates the classic Booker T. & The MGs organ combo sound for our swirling electronic age.
King's deft production here is sleek, not slick, and it works Mark Ribot's sharp guitar into several tracks. Just like modern life, this isn't entirely a groove. Ice" is a tone poem cold and dark and hard, for example, and you may not have to look much ...read more
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