Though there are bands as beloved as Medeski Martin & Wood, few find favor in as many different musical worlds. Jazz, rock, experimental music, the jam-band circuit: Wherever groove-based improvisation is found, so is a place of honor for keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood, and drummer Billy Martin, who brought avant-garde music to new audiences and enriched the whole soil of popular music.
Medeski met Wood and Martin while they were all knocking around New York’s downtown scene, playing with the likes of John Lurie and Bob Moses. After the trio’s 1992 debut, Notes from the Underground, Medeski made the fateful decision to switch from piano to Hammond B3 organ for the sake of touring, opening new vistas of electronic possibility in MMW’s acoustic, hip-hop-and-funk-influenced jazz. The group spent the next three decades expanding its reach by touring with Phish, recording with guitarists like John Scofield, and adding a DJ to a famed live show that held space for mind-opening experimentation at the heights of popular acclaim.
A piano prodigy from Florida, Medeski played with Jaco Pastorius as a teenager before heading north. Though his name is inseparable from his band, he has built his own impressive oeuvre. It includes tellingly diverse collaborators such as John Zorn, Susana Baca, Phil Lesh, Coheed and Cambria, and Blind Boys of Alabama. It also includes A Different Time, the rare Medeski solo album, where he delicately plays originals, interpretations, and improvisations on a hundred-year-old French piano. In contrast to his etched organ attack, this impressionistic music “radiates a vibrant quietude” (All About Jazz) that will shine in Medeski’s solo piano concert at Big Ears.