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Billy Martin

Above all else, Billy Martin believes in the power of unguarded expression to capture glimpses of the truth – sometimes only fleetingly, sometimes for extended, intoxicating stretches. He pursues the ecstatic and the insightful from a variety of vantage points: as a drummer and percussionist, as a composer, as a filmmaker, sculptor, visual artist, and even as a carpenter. To varying degrees, each endeavor is marked by Martin’s dearly held belief that unfettered improvisation and an honest commitment to the moment at hand can bring about new levels of understanding, new perspectives, new sonic textures, and a more profound emotional impact. “In any circumstance, any medium,” he reflects, “you need to be sincere with yourself and with your audience. This is who you are, and you’ve got to be trying as hard as you can to create something for the situation that’s new and fresh. There are going to be some mistakes, it may not be perfect, but you’ve got to be willing to take that chance at any given moment.”

While Billy Martin’s own creative journey has had innumerable forks and bends, he is best known to music enthusiasts as one-third of the indescribable Medeski Martin & Wood. About to enter their twentieth year as a performing and recording aggregation, Medeski Martin & Wood are an entirely unique instrumental ensemble, able to apply principles from a staggering range of traditions (from free and modern jazz to classic R&B and well beyond) while remaining eminently relatable, even accessible. Via fifteen albums, tireless touring (performing everywhere from jazz clubs to jamband festivals), and collaborations with the likes of John Scofield and John Zorn, the trio have united audiences from disparate corners of the musical universe who react with equal awe and enthusiasm to the band’s infectious grooves and undiminished exploratory zeal.

Few if any major acts are able to simultaneously function so successfully – both artistically and commercially – as both a laboratory as Medeski Martin & Wood have, and their work exemplifies many of Martin’s ideals and principles as an improvising composer/performer. Forever refining and rediscovering his own signature sound, Martin vividly explores these notions of creative identity, of surrendering to the moment, of developing one’s own artistic voice, in Life on Drums, his feature-length directorial debut, which will be released on DVD by Vongole Films on October 8th, 2010. Sumptuously filmed in a disused New Jersey radio station, the informative yet atmospheric Life on Drums combines conversations with solo and group performances (some improvised, some composed) to create an engrossing portrait of Martin’s evolving musical aesthetic.

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Into the Void

Music Factory Records
2022

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The Garden

Music Factory Records
2022

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Shimmy

Victor
2012

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Radiolarians - The...

Indirecto Records
2009

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Mago

Amulet
2007

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