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Jazz, funk, rock and hip-hop collide for one night
by Krystal Bick
Nov 19, 2008 | 893 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy photo
Jazz fusion group Medeski, Martin and Wood perform Saturday night at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
Courtesy photo Jazz fusion group Medeski, Martin and Wood perform Saturday night at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
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Jazz compilations and alternative rock jamming meet and harmonize for one night Saturday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, as trio Medeski, Martin and Wood take the Celebrity Showroom stage.

MMW, as the Brooklyn-based band is often dubbed, is a story of a friendship dating back to each member’s early beginnings in the D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) scene exploring the late-night jazz world.

And after officially coming together in 1991, band members John Medeski (keyboard/organ/piano), Billy Martin (drums/percussion) and Chris Wood (bass) began a musical career that would lead them to release critically acclaimed albums, create a new musical direction for both jazz and rock and even be featured in numerous motion picture soundtracks, including the 1995 John Travolta flick “Get Shorty.”

Despite recording success, MMW is best known for their innovative and improvisational style, mixing in sounds of funk and hip-hop as members have repeatedly said in interviews they prefer playing live.

“In the history of man, recorded music is just a blink of the eye, just a small part of that vast history,” Medeski said in a biography on the band’s official Web site. “The real thing is playing music live, and that is what we do.”

So it comes as no surprise to any of MMW’s fans that the jazz trio’s start was primarily live performances around New York City hot spots and even an east coast tour before the release of their first album, “Notes from the Underground” (1991), with independent label hap-jones.

Garnering a significant fan base, MMW soon released another record, “It’s a Jungle in Here” (1993), and hit the road again. This time around the country, ultimately leading them to their next stop: their breakthrough album “Friday Afternoon in the Universe” (1994).

“Friday,” which continued and experimented with their groove and melodic beats, landed the band gigs all over the United States, Europe and Japan, featuring the hit song “Chub Subb,” which is part of the “Get Shorty” soundtrack.

And their success didn’t stop there as 1996 brought even more endless touring and after a 1995 show featuring two collaborations with musical jam band great Phish, MMW was on the musical map, bringing a little bit of everything to the style table.

One reviewer from Rolling Stone even commented that MMW has “built a reputation as one of the most inventive jam bands of ’90s, the rare act that could entertain Phishheads one night and a fringe-jazz crowd the next.”

Such versatile appeal made way for 13 future successful albums, including “Tonic” (2000), “The Dropper” (2000) and “End of the World Party (Just in Case)” (2004), the title track of which was featured on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtrack.

Individual projects within the band have also strengthened MMW’s popularity, as Wood often plays with his brother in The Wood Brothers band. Medeski scores films, including the 1996 drama “Day on Fire,” and Martin has produced percussion instrument books.

Together, though, MMW undeniably tackles perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in the music industry today: widespread appeal — and across genres at that.

Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32 and are available for purchase by calling (800) 648-1177 or 356-3300 and also by visiting www.janugget.com.

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