John Medeski, organ, keyboards & piano
Billy Martin, drums
Chris Wood, bass
Nels Cline, guitar
Wide open. That's the phrase John Medeski uses to describe his bandmates' musical sensibilities, the attitude he seeks in himself, and the spirit of musical adventure that Medeski, Martin & Wood have pursued for over two decades. The trio's amalgam of jazz, funk, "avant-noise," and a million other musical currents and impulses is nearly impossible to classify, which is just how they like it. Medeski's keyboard excursions, Chris Wood's hard-charging bass lines, and Billy Martin's supple, danceable beats have come to resemble a single organism, moving gracefully between genre-defying compositions and expansive improvisation atop a relentless groove.
Though the "jazz spirit," as they like to call it, has been ever-present in their sonic voyages, Medeski Martin & Wood have won over a substantial audience that rarely responds to instrumental music, let alone a guitar-less trinity purveying an unholy blend of Jimmy Smith, György Ligeti, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In fact, their club and festival appearances are packed with alternative-rock lovers as well as jam-band aficionados and jazz heads.
Medeski Martin & Wood's onstage adventurousness have sparked an experimental approach to recording as well. Examples include 1996's Shack-Man (recorded in a solar-powered plywood shack in Hawaii); the funked-out 1998 Blue Note disc Combustication; the acoustic live set Tonic (2000) and its plugged-in twin, 2001's Electric Tonic; 2004's End of the World Party (Just in Case); their two collaborations with guitarist John Scofield – A Go Go (1998) and Out Louder (2006); the 2008 children's record Let's Go Everywhere; the 2008-09 Radiolarian series, a trilogy of albums generated according to a strict policy of "Write > Tour > Record > Repeat," as the band noted in an online announcement; and 20, a collection of tracks released monthly over the course of 2011 in commemoration of the band's 20th anniversary. They've also founded and run their own label, Indirecto.
Do Medeski Martin & Wood have any reflections on having recently reached the extraordinary milestone of playing together for some 20 years? "We're old motherfuckers, man," Medeski replies with a laugh. He adds: "We're in a really good place. We've been writing a lot of new music. We always want to create a certain vibration in the evening – if we're doing something new and feeling the excitement, that'll do it."
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