Gigs turned into multiple engagements, dates at small clubs led to performances at legendary New York City downtown hotspots like the Village Gate and the Knitting Factory, and soon the band was packed into Billy’s van, traveling up and down the North Eastern United States. The next step was a natural one for any band – capture the music for posterity – and so MMW recorded their debut, ‘Notes From The Underground,’ which they released independently on hap-jones records in early 1991. More gigs followed, and soon it was time for another release. This time, Medeski Martin & Wood inked a deal with Gramavision, a larger but still independent label that afforded them substantial freedom to create music the way they felt it should be played. In the summer of 1993 they released ‘It’s A Jungle In Here,’ purchased an R/V, and hit the road for nearly half a year.
1994 saw the release of ‘Friday Afternoon in the Universe,’ and by 1995 it seemed like MMW was truly touring the universe, as their concert itinerary spread out and around the entire United States, and into Europe and Japan. In 1996, the band released their final Gramavision disc, ‘Shack-Man,’ which they celebrated with an 8-week Monday night residency at New York’s Knitting Factory. With much fanfare, the band then signed with another record label – the legendary jazz imprint Blue Note Records. At the turn of the new millennium, they released their all-acoustic album ‘Tonic,’ named for the Lower East Side club (and former kosher winery) where it was recorded.
Which brings us to the here-and-now. Medeski Martin & Wood are no longer signed to anyone else’s record label; they have come full circle by establishing their own label, Indirecto Records, as an outlet for their music. The trio’s first Indirecto release, ‘Out Louder,’ is a four-way collaboration with guitarist John Scofield, which true-to-form is heavy on group improvisation, irresistible grooves, rich harmonies, and strong melodies. Chris Wood plays frequently with his brother Oliver in The Wood Brothers, a rootsy, folk-and-blues, guitar and bass duo that serves as an outlet for both brothers’ songwriting and vocal skills. Billy Martin runs his own record label, releasing new and vintage recordings with a focus on percussion-based music. Amongst his releases is a three volume set of his own drum beats, and a percussion instruction book, focusing on bell and clave patterns found in Afro-Caribbean music, and featuring musical notation that Martin designed himself. John Medeski, well, he is involved in a multitude of musical projects, from solo piano recitals to sideman gigs to leading or co-leading large and small bands. John has also lent his production skills to recordings by musical associates and friends, and has become involved in scoring films, including the acclaimed film Day on Fire which he scored and has a cameo appearance in. Medeski Martin and Wood live in our world, playing music that reflects their surroundings and communities. At the same time, they are a small world unto themselves, where creativity and spontaneity are honored, revered, and encouraged. And the world-at-large is a much better place for it.