Medeski Martin & Wood

0

MMW thinks outside the box for 2oth anniversary

:: Medeski Martin & Wood ::
:: Vilar Center :: March 2 ::
:: Belly Up :: March 3 ::
:: Boulder Theater :: March 4 ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: March 5 ::

By Ben Waligoske

Back in 1991, there were no long distance phone interviews.  There were no international dates, no Blue Note sessions, no side-projects. There were simply three unknown musicians buried in the D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.

These musicians came together to form a group that would allow them to express themselves honestly through music: nothing more, nothing less. In 2011, the musicians are no longer unknown.  Now with extensive tours and over a dozen records under their belts, John Medeski, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood — three names now synonymous with creativity in instrumental music — are celebrating 20 years together as a group with a new release series aptly titled 20 Years…20 Tracks.

The release is their first since 2008-2009’s Radiolarians series, and during a recent interview with The Marquee, bassist Chris Wood explained more about the group’s latest effort. “Well, it’s not really an album,” Wood began, “what we’re doing is celebrating the twentieth anniversary by releasing twenty tracks over the course of this year. Starting in March, we’re going to be releasing about two tracks per month for online download only.”

Furthermore, while many groups may be inclined toward an ultra-polished studio effort for such a commemoration, Wood instead insists that just as MMW’s sound is an eclectic mix of styles, this release will be too. “We’ve never been a band that preconceives things in very concrete ways,” he said. “We know what we don’t want to do, but we have trouble putting into words what we do want to do — and so this will be a mix of stuff. Some tracks will be real fleshed-out in the studio, some on the road, and some may even be more field-recording type stuff.  We have a lot of stuff we’ve played over the last few years that never got recorded, you know — tunes we play live that were never recorded. So it’s an opportunity to get those down for people, and also a chance to write new material.”

And, even after twenty years, the group still has a trick or two up their sleeve to keep things interesting for their live audiences too.  During their March tour — which consists of dates in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, California, and Alabama — the group’s first set at each show will be completely determined via fan suggestions on Facebook. Fans can log on, state the show they are attending, and suggest their favorite tunes. Wood elaborated, “It’s kind of our way of having a true 20-year retrospective, by having people request some of the older songs that they want to hear. Some stuff being asked for is what we would expect, but there are definitely some that are a little more obscure, which is great. It’s going to be fun to pull some of those out.”

And for those that love MMW’s funk flavorings, the second sets are sure to be full of excitement as well. “For the second sets, we’re going to be improvising in the style that we call a ‘Shack-Party,’” Wood started, “which is — even though we’re improvising and making it all up — it’s definitely groove and dance oriented pieces of music that we create. We think of it as spontaneous composition, where even though you are improvising, you are creating a piece of music with a beginning, middle, and an end.

For those only vaguely familiar with MMW’s body of work, Wood cautioned not to let the improvisational and exploratory nature of the music fool one into thinking that this is just “jazz” music. “Jazz to me is such a meaningless word, right now. If you think about it, some people think Kenny G is jazz and some think Duke Ellington is jazz. So that right there turns the word into a useless word.” Wood continued, “We call it homeless music. It doesn’t fit in any category, it’s homeless.  That’s the spirit of what we’ve done over the years — it’s sort of a gypsy lifestyle, it’s out there. It has such a large range of influences and it draws essentially from life itself.”

Whatever term one prefers to use to describe it, one thing is certain — MMW’s progression from humble Brooklyn beginnings in 1991 to their now revered status as leaders in the improvisational music scene has always been guided by their own muse, their own sense of purpose. And, it will continue to be. The end to this impressive career of unabashed creativity has yet to be composed and, hopefully, we won’t hear the end for at least another twenty years.

:: Medeski Martin & Wood ::

:: Vilar Center :: March 2 ::

:: Belly Up :: March 3 ::

:: Boulder Theater :: March 4 ::

:: Ogden Theatre :: March 5 ::

 

Recommended if you Like:

• John Scofield

• Phish

• Galactic

Cool, Share this article:

Leave A Reply