The Cold War was done, the Gulf War just begun and somewhere in the heart of Brooklyn, Medeski Martin and Wood were born in the sun. Playing music together for the first time that summer there was an instant connection - described by all three as being very natural, very organic and very strong. As complicated as their individual pasts might have been up to that point, their collective future together as a band had just become extremely simple - stick together
and make music.
This is exactly what happened.
The trio grew and evolved as naturally and organically as their first jam session. They had no real plan and kinda made things up as they went along (still do in fact). First, it was the gigs at the village gate, then opening it up a bit at the old knitting factory. The guys held onto their various side-gigs and all three continued to work with other artists and groups (still do in fact) but the trio was un-derivative, un-jazz and unlike anything they had ever experienced before. They were
having a great time.
Billy's pop's place in Jersey was the band's "office" where they would use the computer, the copy machine and general office supplies to create press kits and book tours. What started out as a john lurie joke became the first official name of the band COLTRANE'S WIG which was quickly replaced by the law-firm like MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD (friend and fellow lounge lizard oren bloedow suggested they use their last names... Billy picked the order). Soon, the first little tour was booked around the northeast. Packing into Billy's old ford van, they would take off for short runs, hanging out, sleeping on floors and coming back home. Only a few months after their initial get together, MMW went into BABY MONSTER studios to record their debut album - NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND which they released independently on
1992. On the map
Sort-of. With a record to their credit, solid gigs in NYC and a few short runs out into the rest of the land MMW had officially risen above the notes from the underground and started making some noise. Still taking baby steps, letting things develop naturally, and just making music (which at this point in time had the ability to change in style nightly... depending on the place, time and space they were playing). Watching the boys play back then (and now) it was (and is) obvious that they were not trying to become rock stars, or jazz legends...they weren't trying to become anything other than themselves.
Despite their commitment to each other, Medeski Martin and Wood still wasn't a full time job. In order to make a living (and experiment in sound) they continued to work as individuals within the deeply rich mines of New York City's downtown scene - an incestuous melting pot of music, style and sounds. Recordings, gigs and tours with other artists and other bands was a way of life for Billy, John and Chris and it was through one of these tours that MMW hooked up with their unofficial fourth member - LIZ PENTA.
Liz (who booked CBGB'S GALLERY at the time) was in Europe on tour with Marc Ribot's band (The Rootless Cosmopolitans) which included Sim Caine and Chris Wood. Chris told Liz about MMW and Liz convinced the band to play CB's later in the year. They did. Liz freaked (passing them the legendary post-show "note") and kept bringing them back, drawing more people every time.
First major commitment was the record deal. Manager #1, MISSY ROGERS, procured a deal with GRAMAVISION (pre-RYKO days) who in turn released "It's a Jungle in Here" in the summer of 1993. The deal put M M and W on paper, bound together officially for the first time. That same year the trio repeated their vows, this time by signing papers together for a vehicle - the fabled, no-named R/V. With new records and their new vehicle, they continued their journey - non-stop touring.
1994. You're either on the bus or you're off
Having recently left CB's gallery the band invited MS. PENTA (see 1992) to join them, in the R/V, as road manager. The first run of the year saw co-billing with the NYC collective LOST TRIBE. Then a four month journey took them on a full sweep of the United States and Canada. MMW (who by now had the road down to an organic science) would find the closest r/v park, campground or state park...waking up either in a sketchy KOA or in the midst of sacred grounds.
Spending every day together for weeks and months on end, every night a new city, a new resting spot, a new slice of life. Shit was crazy. Playing together and living together...in one small, but recreational, vehicle a family was formed. Everyone had a role: Medeski was the cook, Martin was the mechanic, Wood was the organizer, and Liz did the biz (this was pre-cell phone days too). All four shared the driving responsibilities. The four way marriage was working... and the music was flowing. The band took four days off from touring that summer to document some of the new sounds resulting in the DAVID BAKER
co-produced FRIDAY AFTERNOON
IN THE UNIVERSE.
1995 - New year's resolutions
Liz, will you be our full time manager? She said yes. The band played on.
Her first move was to find the group a real agent and with some help from everyone's adopted sister, and current fabulous babe/road manager, INA JACOBS they hired a punk-rock outfit, RAVE BOOKING, that instantly put the band on another long 4 month tour. Living in New York City is all about downsizing (it's the lack of space y'know?) and by this time in life the band decided to downsize completely. They were on tour SO OFTEN that they gave up their apartments in the city because... they were never home. And the hard-work started to pay off. Creeping out from the underground, it became strangely obvious, that the momentum was shifting, that things were slowly taking off, that they were selling more records and attracting more fans everywhere they went. from every corner of the US, to EUROPE and even JAPAN, MMW was planting flags... all over the map.
MEG ENNS escaped Atlanta, Ga where she had owned and operated HOMAGE (a coffeehouse/ club/art gallery and favorite venue for MMW) to go on tour as merchandiser, soon to be tour manager, to present day president of INDIRECTO (MMW's merchandise company).
1996. The year of the shack
If the band felt the momentum shifting in 95, 96 might have been the year it became official. They sold the r/v and stared touring by bus; landed a spot on the h.o.r.d.e. tour and recorded their best selling album to date - the legendary "Shack-Man". No MMW story would be complete without a nod to the hawaii shack that serves as the band's home
away from home.
Not to be confused with SHACKLYN, MMW's eastern most bat cave in the back-alleys of Brooklyn, THE SHACK is located deep in the heart of HAWAII's big island. you'll need a guide to find it and an ideal candidate would be it's owner MR. CARL GREEN - an old friend of BOB MOSES who introduced the band to his special enclave and the accompanying tree-house which CARL calls home. Nestled along shores of pristine ocean and surrounded by timeless jungle, the shack became the MECCA of MMW and the boys decided to rent the spot full-time, year round. With solar powered energy, a few generators, and the guidance of david baker, the band immortalized the experience by rolling the tape for a month in June. On a shoe-string budget, the band delivered "SHACK-MAN" to Grammavision in July... and became
official free agents.
By the time "Shack-Man" was released later that summer the band had cut-back on the marathon touring, limiting their runs to 6 weeks or less. And to celebrate the release of the new record MMW kept it close to home and curated an 8 week celebration with a Monday night residency at the KNITTING FACTORY. These SHACK PARTIES became a testament to the past, present and future of MMW with highly anticipated sold-out shows that brought incredible excitement to the air... and guests to the stage, including the debut of their affiliation with DJ Logic who was asked to spin records in between sets and also join them on stage to jam (later to join them full time for the ensuing COMBUSTICATION sessions
As noted, the past few years witnessed a general vibe that SOMETHING was going on, that the tide was turning, that the band was growing, that shit was changing. Slow and steady wins the race. But nothing could prepare them for the pleasant surprise of what happened next. By the time word got out that MMW was free and clear of a record deal, a very serious bidding-war was called to order. The biz was abuzz. In sum there were no fewer than 17 labels courting the services of this intriguing instrumental trio. Feeling like the label and it's chief (the legendary BRUCE LUNDVALL) ultimately understood their music best and assured them plenty of room to grow... in any direction... MMW settled into their new home - BLUE NOTE RECORDS.
June 1, 2000. Everything's different, everything's the same
The band is on the road in support of "Tonic" the first album recorded in their original acoustic format since their debut recording almost 9 years ago. They are probably in the back lounge right now watching TENACIOUS D. or maybe Billy's drawing in the front while John's cooking dinner and Chris is putting together loops for the web site. Together in their individuality. Like it's always been
for these three.
Talking to JOHN, BILLY and CHRIS it becomes very clear that this trio will be playing music together for a long time to come... each member cites the need to grow individually as musicians and the sincere desire to learn more about themselves and their art away from the band... to practice, to learn and to grow. Together and apart. But as John puts it "as long as the music's still growing and remains fresh then we'll be together forever, we all kinda feel that way." amen.
Medeski Martin & Wood I Wanna Ride You live at Java Jazz Festival 2012
Medeski Martin & Wood - KCRW Radio Station
Blue Note Records releases Note Bleu: Best of the Blue Note Years 1998-2005, a collection from Medeski Martin & Wood that spans the five ground-breaking albums that the improvisational trio (keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood, drummer Billy Martin) has made for the label. MMW's unique sound, which Esquire described as "tough, driving grooves", have earned them fans throughout the world.
3 New "ON" this week: 93 Total Stations
Syndicated: Weekend Edition Sunday Direct: XM: Beyond Jazz, Sirius: Planet Jazz Markets include: Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Miami, Detroit(ADI), Minneapolis, Seattle(ADI), Denver, Austin, Cleveland, Denver(ADI), Boulder, Baltimore(ADI), Portland, Austin, Orlando, Madison WI, Tucson, Santa Fe
Although this year marks the 25th anniversary of Medeski Martin & Wood you didn't find the musicians celebrating it with a timely set of tour dates and album releases. Instead, the members continued a hiatus that began over a year ago and pursued other endeavors-keyboardist John Medeski performed solo dates plus shows with John Scofield, the Meters, the Dear Jerry: Let's Play 2 concert and recorded with Saudade and FIREJELLY, percussionist Billy Martin produced new music, art and a book and bassist Chris Wood maintained an active schedule in the Wood Brothers.
The trio did perform together as an opening act for the Motet's headlining gig last July at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Headlining concerts on Oct. 19 and 20 at where it all started for them at Le Poisson Rouge (formerly the Village Gate) were scrapped at the last minute when Wood had emergency surgery. (They're rescheduled for Jan. 16-18.) His bandmates honored the dates by performing with previous collaborator Nels Cline on one night and the Campbell Brothers on the other.
Now, the only 25th anniversary headlining performances this year will occur when MMW play Nov. 18 and 19 at On Air Studio in Cleveland. They will be joined by previous collaborators, including: Marc Ribot, Steve Bernstein, Cyro Baptista, DJ Logic and DJ Olive.
From the beginning Medeski Martin & Wood's approached music as if it was a palette of colors that ranged from snow white to dead of night black. The instrumental trio opted for New York's downtown art-music scene because they viewed the jazz outlets stifling to the band members' musical ambition; one that encouraged improvisation, experimentation and developing new sonic structures that embraced the musical styles of the past and present.
The band's wide open approach to jazz led them to incorporate funk, hip-hop, avant-noise, spoken word and much much more.
As Medeski explained in their bio, Martin's groove-oriented rhythms lay a foundation that pull in listeners who may not readily embrace jazz or improvisational music. That allows him to "get in there and infect their minds more easily, and Chris can lay it down to keep them from losing it."
It's an adventurous combination that has worked when playing tunes from their 21 releases as well as totally improvised performances plus studio and onstage collaborations with legendary guitarist John Scofield.
I had a conversation with Medeski as he waited at Newark Liberty International Airport for his flight to California. It's the morning after his second of two New York that took place in lieu of the MMW gigs. He is headed west to play at Hangtown Music Festival in Placerville, California with Martin in another ad hoc configuration that was originally to feature MMW. Today, it will be a one-of-a-kind ensemble with Kirk Joseph of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (tuba) and Will Bernard (guitar) dubbed Medeski Martin & Mad Skillet. Then, it's back on a plane the next day to perform with John Zorn and later in DRKWAV with Adam Deitch and Skerik as part of Brooklyn Comes Alive music festival.
READ THE JamBands Q&A
The first time that the New York trio Medeski Martin & Wood made it to Edmonton back in December 1994 is now "legendary" for keyboard player John Medeski. "Edmonton was minus 28 degrees," he recalls. "We were driving and sleeping in a camper and it froze the heating system. I had to borrow a hair dryer to warm up the tubes on the organ after we brought it inside because it sounded like crap when we started it up." Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood are one of the star dates at this year's Edmonton International Jazz Festival
READ THE FULL Edmonton Journal PREVIEW
Blue Note Records will release Note Bleu: Best of the Blue Note Years 1998-2005, a collection from Medeski Martin & Wood that spans the five ground-breaking albums that the improvisational trio (keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood, drummer Billy Martin) has made for the label. MMW's unique sound (which Esquire described as "tough, driving grooves [that] split the difference between jazz and funk"), and relentless touring ethos have earned them legions of fans throughout the world. Note Bleu will be released as a single-disc CD and as a double-disc CD/DVD Deluxe Edition with additional rare audio tracks, music videos, concert footage, documentaries, and photo galleries.
Born out of New York City's downtown experimental music boom of the early 1990s, "Jazz's premier funk-prov ensemble" (DownBeat), made their Blue Note debut in 1998 with the best-selling Combustication, a finely-crafted, groove-heavy studio album that also spawned an EP of remixes (with contributions from Guru, Bill Laswell, and DJ Logic amongst others).
Tonic, a remarkable live, acoustic piano trio recording from the New York City club of the same name, followed in early 2000 and further illustrated MMW's jaw-dropping versatility. Later in 2000 came The Dropper, the band's most experimental effort to date which managed to capture the mix of irrepressible grooves and free-jazz influenced excursions that are a hallmark of their live performances.
After a period where each of the bandmembers explored individual projects MMW reunited for 2002's Uninvisible, and for 2004's End of the World Party (just in case), the band invited an outside producer (John King of the Dust Brothers) into the studio for the first time.
The single-disc release of Note Bleu consists of 15 tracks that draw from MMW's Blue Note catalog. The Deluxe Edition additionally features three rare audio tracks, three music videos (Partido Alto, The Dropper, and Uninvisible), live concert footage from the 1998 Texaco Jazz Festival and 2005 Newport JVC Jazz Festival, two band documentaries, and two photo galleries (one featuring acclaimed photographer Danny Clinch's shots of the band, and the other consisting of personal photos from the studio and on tour).