- Medeski, Martin & Wood
A decade passes and the latter-day, jazz-goes-to-college experiment that is Medeski, Martin & Wood rolls on. When the three musicians met back in New York in 1992, they committed themselves to the idea that, if they played music that might appeal to people like their friends and then took that music to those people, they might get something going. The three piled in an RV and bypassed the jazz-club circuit in favor of groove-soaked college campuses and coffee shop hangouts. Now, despite a name that sounds more appropriate to a law firm, MMW goes places jazz bands haven't been since Miles Davis and Charles Lloyd rocked out Fillmore West. They continue to play to outrageously large crowds and open for rock and pop acts without (so far) having to worry about the occasional off-type release such as Tonic, an all-acoustic, spiky, and defiantly free jazz recording the group released earlier this year. The circuit it helped open now sustains a legion of bands whose music swings between jazz and improvisational rock and funk. Though it bristles somewhat at the idea of its success in a post-Garcia world, MMW knows that the kids put the bread on the table and the kids want grooves. With The Dropper, its latest release and second album to come out this year, MMW loses the turntablist and continues to experiment with soundscapes and songform. The band invited downtown jazzers such as violinist Charlie Burnham (Susie Ibarra, Rob Reddy's Quttah) and guitarist Marc Ribot (Prosthetic Cubans, Jazz Passengers, Tom Waits) to help out and came up with some inventive tunes, such as the heavily percussive, Varèse-influenced "Illinization" and the aggressive "We Are Rolling." To its credit, it never for one second breaks up drummer Billy Martin's bouncing, kitchen-sink beat or Chris Wood's dead-on bass.