John Medeski: Growing Up in Fort Lauderdale, "There Was Amazing Music"

John Medeski grew up in Ft. Lauderdale. He graduated from Pine Crest before spreading his wings to the northeast and finding fame and fortune as keyboardist for the jazz trio Medeski, Martin, & Wood. 

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He's sandwiched this with an acclaimed solo piano career while finding time to perform music with Trey Anastasio, Iggy Pop, and John Scofield. 

Medeski, along with Martin & Wood, will be making a homecoming of sorts this Sunday at Revolution Live before setting sail on the eleventh annual Jam Cruise.

New Times spoke with Medeski as he packed up his waterwings and Dramamine for the voyage.

New Times: Did growing up in South Florida shape your music?

John Medeski: Of course. This is where I started. In Fort Lauderdale, there was amazing music. There were a lot of things going on in the Florida jazz scene. You had Ira Sullivan coming down here. You had great music at Bubba's in Fort Lauderdale, and I got to play a lot of shows at Musician's Exchange. 

Who were some of your influences?

Othello Molineaux and his steel drums were huge. Then I got to play in a band with one of my biggest influences, Jaco Pastorius, called Emergency.

You have a solo album coming out April 9. How does your solo work differ from what you do with Medeski, Martin, & Wood?

It's just me on piano. No bass or drums. It's solo, so I go a lot of different places I can't go with a band. I play a 19th century style piano from the era of Chopin called a Gaveau, so the music is more delicate.

So you're kind of back to classical after training as a classical pianist. What drove you to jazz?

When I first heard jazz, it blew my mind. I like to improvise and jazz gives you the freedom to do so.

The new Medeski, Martin, & Wood album Free Magic is acoustic, will this concert also be acoustic? 

No. Our concert will be eclectic. Music from all our periods. We will have a special guest coming on stage. No hints, but I think people know him. He'll come up on the second set along with anyone else from the cruise who might show up.

As a performer what do you hope audiences will get from a Medeski, Martin, & Wood concert?

I hope they get what they need. Maybe not what they want, but what they need.  

Jam Cruise 11 Pre-Party, with Medeski, Martin & Wood. 9 p.m. Sunday, January 6, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $29, plus fees, via Age 18 and up. Call 954-449-1025.

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland