Medeski, Martin & Wood

Despite being a cool, downtown NYC jazz act with roots in the early '90s avant-garde scene of John Lurie and John Zorn, no one loves Medeski, Martin & Wood like the patchouli-loving, Birkenstocks-on-the-weekend hippie crowd. MM&W's supersonic organ funk jams forever cemented their relationship with neo-trustafarians, who first heard them when Phish would use the group's early albums as bumper music between sets.

Although jazzbo/hippie relations are nourished through MM&W visits to Bonnaroo, Langerado, and this year's Jam Cruise, the band is expanding its horizons exponentially thanks to the opportunities created by the destruction of the record business. The group has already put out 14 albums, one EP, and two best-of collections between 1992 and 2006, which would be considered prolific by any measure. Still, 2008 saw the release of three separate MM&W albums.

The first, Let's Go Everywhere, is a children's record, with the title track interpolating Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" into a call to arms for kids to travel the globe through music and imagination. The second, Zaebos, is a return to the music of the band's beginnings. It's a collection of John Zorn tunes, with range from prog rock/free jazz to the jagged piano/acoustic bass workout on songs like "Rifion." The third release, Radiolarians, is the first installment of one of the bolder projects in recent memory. Starting this past February, MM&W scheduled three tour runs, with each one planned as the breeding ground of a new album. Radiolarians contained plenty of starter yeast from jams like "Professor Nohair," a tribute to New Orleans jazz great Professor Longhair. Similarly, Radiolarians Volume 2, which was recently completed, and Volume 3, which is being made right now, were conceived entirely from improvs on the road.

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Tom Bowker