Medeski, Martin & Wood Team Up Again with Jazz Legend John Scofield for MSMW

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:: Ogden Theatre :: December 7 ::
:: Boulder Theater :: December 8 ::

By Brian Turk

Jazz is an organism that lives, breathes and grows — bred in the laboratory of improvisation. And thus, Medeski, Martin and Wood — the jazz trio that recently completed its second decade of experimentation together — is also a live, breathing organism, always evolving.

Chris Wood and John Medeski first met at The New England Conservatory of Music, and toted their instruments and their exploratory natures down to New York City together. The two musicians met jazz drummer Billy Martin at the venue The Village Gate, and the organism grew through the catalyst of undeniable chemistry. MMW slid out of the petri dish and entered the lab.

When a band communicates and creates with the clarity and intensity of MMW, other musicians sometimes find it hard to step into the fold. It’s like jumping onto a speeding treadmill. Furthermore, when a band has an almost telepathic musical bond, it’s nearly impossible to get someone onto that same wavelength. But when MMW met legendary jazz guitarist John Scofield, it was obvious he was already tuned in, and the four began a relationship as natural as the formation of MMW itself.

Since that first meeting in the late ’90s, the four have often played as MSMW, and have spent some time together in the studio as well.

“We have played with Scofield quite a bit,” said the Boulder-bred Chris Wood when The Marquee caught up with him while on tour with his brother Oliver, as the aptly named Wood Brothers. “Scofield’s one of our fourth members, in a way, who we love playing with. He contacted us originally in the late ’90s to do a record with him, A Go-Go. It was just a fun and easy experience. It just felt very natural playing together. We really respect where he’s coming from — his work with Miles Davis, and his influences of New Orleans style. He’s a great improviser, and a great jazz musician. So for us it’s a perfect match, really. It just kinda flows effortlessly.”

That appearance on Scofield’s album kindled an interest, and after knowing each other for another eight years, the four dug in a little deeper. “We did a follow-up record later on, on our own label, called Out Louder, which was the first record as MSMW. We got to really collaborate with him, write songs together, come up with new material together in the studio. Then we toured on that record, and also put out a live record [In Case the World Changes Its Mind, 2011]. So I am sure we will be playing material from all that when we come out to Colorado. Maybe a couple new things, too,” Wood said.

Ironically, despite their background as formally trained jazz musicians, MMW has an element, and an audience, that most jazz groups do not. Four years into their career, and a few years before being signed to the esteemed Blue Note label, MMW stepped out of the bounds of most jazz bands and opened up for Phish (back when Phish still had opening bands). Not shockingly, the gig drew massive attention to the band, opening the group to a fan base seldom available to traditional jazz acts — the jam band crowd.

“None of us know how that happened, but it did,” laughed Wood. “You know, we are just out there doing what we do, and it’s interesting. You put something out there and people try to label it and categorize it, and put it in some type of box so you can talk about it, and sell it. It’s great, and sure feels good to have an audience.”

The band’s most recent live album, Free Magic, released this fall, features songs culled from the group’s 2007 first all-acoustic tour. The five song, hour-long disc garnered favorable reviews and the revered blog Consequence of Sound said that the album is “an undeniably fresh approach to not only jazz, but to our conception of sound as a whole.”

As we get set to flip the calendar, Wood said that MMW has some plans for 2013, but like all they do as a group, the plans have some wiggle room built in for on-the-spot improvisation.

“You never really know. With MMW we always know what we’re not gonna do, but we rarely know what we’re gonna do,” said Wood. “Right now, Free Magic just came out and we’ve got some dates with Scofield, then some touring at the beginning of next year. Then we are going to start thinking about what we’re going to record next. We have a few ideas flyin’ but we still haven’t found anything yet.”

 

:: Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood ::

:: Ogden Theatre :: December 7 ::

:: Boulder Theater :: December 8 ::

 

 

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