Bunch of funkin’ bums
Medeski, Martin and Wood – sometimes funky, sometimes jazzy, sometimes experimental, sometimes all of the above. Folks will have the opportunity to figure it out for themselves at the group’s concert today at 8150 at 10 p.m.
“I can’t (explain our band) any way that would help anybody understand it. I just call it “Medeski Martin and Wood music’. We’ve been together long enough that we have a sound. The name of our band is the adjective for our music,” explains Chris Wood, the bass player for the group.
Built upon a foundation of improvisation, MMW (as their fans call them) will always entertain a crowd. Last year, they played a lively show at Dobson Arena while on a tour with Galactic.
“We play at least once a year in the Denver area,” says Wood, who grew up in Boulder but now lives in the New York City area. In the middle of what they’ve dubbed their Ski Bum Tour, they’ve already played in Jackson Hole, Park City and Steamboat.
John Medeski (keyboards) and Billy Martin (percussion) round out the trio. Having been together for almost 15 years, Medeski Martin and Wood are working on expanding their recordings by one, when a new CD comes out this summer. This new album marks the first time that they’ve started out with a producer before recording.
“We just wanted to try it,” explains Wood. “We really had never done it before. It’s nice to have someone come in who has a completely objective point of view to pick some things that maybe we wouldn’t pick otherwise.”
Their producer, John King, has produced some classic albums, among them “Paul’s Boutique” for the Beastie Boys, “Odelay” for Beck, and the self-titled Tenacious D album. MMW isn’t afraid to explore new territory with their music. Wood describes the new album:
“It’s really groovin’ and funky, you know, with some tunes really atmospheric, and some have a really “feel good’ vibe to them. Some have almost a classic Duke Ellington-esque trio kind of thing. One of the tunes is definitely very hip-hop.”
Their first release in nearly two years, fans are eager to see what they come up with.
Medeski Martin and Wood don’t tour as often as they used to, but they still manage to get the miles in. They recently returned from a tour in Japan.
“Japan’s great,” says Wood. “We love going there. We love Japanese culture. We’ve always been into traditional Japanese culture and the food and the tea. So for us, it’s always a blast to get out there. More and more, we’re beginning to build a following there.”
Years on the road were great and MMW loved touring, but now they can pick and choose their tours more. “At one point, we pretty much gave up our apartments and just lived on the road. And when we were off, we went to Hawaii,” he says. “These days, we’re a little more settled down with families and homes and mortgages. We’re always trying to find that balance between working and being on the road.”
MMW has shared the stage with many famous performers, including John Scofield and Trey Anastasio from Phish. While reminiscing about playing with Trey at the Palace Theater in Albany, New York a few years ago, Wood talked about how such a guest appearance works. Trey was, “just there. Whenever someone’s around that we know and we want to play music with them, we do it. It’s not really preconceived at all. We don’t get any practice time with them at all. It’s really about improvising. We only have people come sit in with us who can improvise and who make music in the moment. We don’t get the chance to rehearse as a band, much less with a guest.”
Any special guests showing up at today’s show?
“Not that I know of, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen,” he says.
Last year, MMW played a larger venue in Vail, but Chris Wood confesses he likes playing the smaller clubs. “Ultimately, we like to play smaller places. It tends to be easier to play our kind of music in a smaller venue.” 8150 is very small for the group, so get tickets early.