Despite being a cool, downtown NYC jazz act with roots in the early Nineties avant-garde scene of John Lurie and John Zorn, no one loves Medeski, Martin & Wood like that patchouli-loving, Birkenstocks-on-the-weekend hippie in the next cubicle over from you at work. MM&W's supersonic organ funk jams with DJ Logic in the Nineties forever cemented their relationship with neohippies, who first heard them when Phish would use the group's early albums as bumper music in between sets.
While jazzbo/hippie relations are nourished through MM&W visits to Bonnaroo, Langerado, and this year's Jam Cruise, the band is expanding their horizons exponentially thanks to the opportunities given them 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 extremely 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
call to arms for kids to travel the globe old school, through music and
imagination. The second 2008 MM&W release, Zaebos, is a
return to the music of their beginnings. It's a collection of John Zorn
tunes, with range from the prog rock/free jazz DMZ of "Zagzagel" to the
jagged piano/acoustic bass workout "Rifion."
The third release, Radiolarians Vol. 1,
is the first installment of one of the more bold 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.
Volume 1 contained plenty of starter yeast from jams like "Professor
Nohair," a tribute to New Orleans jazz great Professor Longhair.
Similarly, Radiolarians volume two, which was recently
completed, and volume three, which is being made right now, were
completely conceived from improvs on the road.
-- Tom Bowker