Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


A Fireside Chat with John Medeski

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
It's gratifying when the people that are checking the music out go and check out Mingus and Duke Ellington or any of the other people. Sometimes we will play somebody else's song on a gig and then they will go check out the original.
As a member of Medeski, Martin, and Wood, John Medeski sees the future of jazz on a nightly basis. The audiences at MMW's shows average at about 21 years of age and they dance to the groove that is being produced on stage. That makes Medeski an authority on the future of the music. Afterall, he is on the frontline. So here is the man of the hour, unedited and in his own words.

All About Jazz: Let's start from the beginning.

John Medeski: I started when I was a kid, when I was like five. I started taking piano lessons, classical piano lessons. That's pretty much all I've really ever done since I was twelve. I knew around there that this is what I wanted to do and I kind of started focusing on playing the piano and on music, all different kinds, everything I could do. I got into jazz around that time too. When I was like eleven or twelve, I got turned onto by one of my friend's big brothers. He was listening to jazz and he turned me onto it. I just got really into it and started checking it out then and studied. I found a really great teacher and started studying jazz too.

AAJ: What were you listening to?

JM: Well, the first one was an Oscar Peterson record, which is pretty funny. Then I heard some Bud Powell, I guess, was the next thing that hit me. That blew my mind and Cecil Taylor. I think A Love Supreme (Impulse!) was another one around that time. It was just great, incredible music. It's one of the great records. It's great music. It took me a long time to figure it out. Something about it drew me to it. But I was a kid, so I just listen to it over and over and over with headphones. That's kind of what got me into it. I also listened to some other stuff like Tony Williams' Lifetime, the stuff that other people were listening to.

AAJ: How did Medeski, Martin, and Wood come about?

JM: We got together in New York. We first just got together to play, just to play together. We started doing gigs together at this club called The Village Gate in New York City.

AAJ: How long have the three of you, Chris (Wood) and Billy (Martin), been playing together?

JM: Since '91.

AAJ: So MMW has been knocking on the door for a while.

JM: We were on a different label, Rykodisc, before Blue Note. We were on Rykodisc, Gramavision, which became part of Rykodisc. We were on Gramavision and then we got on Blue Note.

AAJ: I remember you guys playing the Horde Festival.

JM: That's right. We did four Horde Festivals. It was great. We would only do a little bit at a time. We would do like a two week, week stint usually. We had a great time doing it. It's a different audience. It's bigger. It was a different situation than we had been used to at that time. Since then, we've done a lot of shows like that.

AAJ: Through playing alternative festivals you have been very successful at reaching out and bringing younger audiences to the music.

JM: It's beyond cool. It was like the choice we made. Those guys are going to get older and change too and hopefully, as we do, they'll be into it. When we first went out to play, we specifically did not play jazz clubs. We did a couple on one of our first tours and it was such a weird feeling. We had a better experience playing at coffee houses and places like that where the younger people were at.

AAJ: What is the average age of someone who comes to hear MMW?

JM: It's a pretty young audience, 25 and under is the main part of it.

AAJ: When you guys are on stage, the audience is dancing to it, grooving to it, and in some cases doing a pretty hip rave hybrid.

JM: Yeah, or just checking it out. That's the way it should be.

AAJ: It is a relaxed vibe and not that sterile atmosphere that most jazz clubs tend to give off, and you guys are bringing an audience to the music that ordinarily might never listen to Charles Mingus or Ornette Coleman.

JM: It's gratifying when the people that are checking the music out go and check out Mingus and Duke Ellington or any of the other people. Sometimes we will play somebody else's song on a gig and then they will go check out the original. Yeah, that's gratifying to be able to do that, not do that, but to be a link.

AAJ: Let's touch on your debut on Blue Note, Combustication.

JM: We did two different weeks. We did a week of recording before we went on the road. We did a month tour and we came back and did another week of recording. Blue Note's been great. It's been great. We love the people who are there and they are really good for us, I think.

AAJ: So are you in the studio working on the follow-up?

JM: We're going to have a record called Tonic, which is a live, acoustic, piano, bass, and drums trio set from some live gigs we did in New York. We probably play an acoustic tour for that. Do a bunch of acoustic trio gigs for that little period, late spring and summer of this coming year and then we will see what happens in the fall.

AAJ: And do you have a scheduled release date?

JM: That's going to come out in April. Right now, we are working on our other record and that will probably come out sometime in the fall or something. This is a more electric kind of thing. Definitely the way we do it.


comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
John Medeski
House of Blues - New Orleans
New Orleans, LA
Skerik, Stanton Moore, DJ Logic, Will Bernard, John...
New Orleans, LA
John Medeski
The Maison
New Orleans, LA
John Medeski
New Orleans, LA

Related Articles

Carlo Mombelli: Angels and Demons
By Seton Hawkins
April 22, 2019
Anoushka Shankar: Music Makes the World a Better Place
By Nenad Georgievski
April 17, 2019
Dorothy & George Jacob: Putting Bray On The Jazz Map
By Ian Patterson
April 16, 2019
Harold Danko: His Own Sound, His Own Time
By Jakob Baekgaard
April 8, 2019
Nenette Evans: My Life With Bill
By Bruce Guthrie
April 5, 2019
Aaron Rimbui: Nairobi to New York City
By Seton Hawkins
April 2, 2019
Matt Davis: Big Family, Big Picture
By Dan Bilawsky
March 21, 2019