MMW | 11.20 | San Francisco

By: Chris Clark

Medeski Martin & Wood :: 11.20.08 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

MMW :: 02.24.08 by Tim McDonald
It's difficult to imagine a three-piece jazz outfit more talented than Medeski Martin & Wood. Hell, it's arduous to envision any three musicians coming together capable of churning out such a quality body of work as MMW. For the better part of two decades, the Brooklyn-bred pioneers of futuristic jazz-funk-fusion have risen from exploratory late night forays in NYC's ever-burgeoning jazz underworld of the early 1990s to one of today's most lauded and heralded live acts. Nowadays, John Medeski, Billy Martin and Chris Wood have compiled a decorated career filled with stellar albums (Shack-man and End of the World Part), greatly cherished guest appearances (John Scofield and Trey Anastasio for starters) and even a children's album for the kiddies.

I've been seeing MMW since my college days in Buffalo in 2000. Over the last eight years, they have taken me on several musical journeys, from touring with DJ Logic after the release of Combustication to a couple guest appearances by the aforementioned Anastasio in Albany, NY and in a pouring rain before the Disco Biscuits at a one-day festival in New Jersey. But it was recently at The Fillmore that those eight years of experimentally excellent music came full circle. With Radiolarians 1 just released and a slew of new material ready to be ironed out, MMW returned to S.F. with a two set evening filled with the trio's typical ebbs and flows. For me, seeing them live is hit or miss. While the quality of the music is always there, sometimes I feel they are better enjoyed in the comfort your own home, while other times, I leave the show dripping with sweat, grinning like a child walking into FAO Schwartz for the first time.

Playing to a packed house, MMW arrived on time and on fire. With the first of the three-part Radiolatarians series just released, I figured MMW would sample heavily from this collection, which they did. Commencing with a rather open ended foray, Medeski's slick keyboard touch quickly melted the front of the house into a dancing frenzy, as Chris Wood's thick, thumping stand-up basslines pulsated throughout the room. What's immediately noticeable, whether seeing them in S.F. or NYC, is the band's diverse cross-section of fans, from the 40-something, wine sipping piano aficionados to college age neo-hippies and of course, a fair share of sweater-wearing yuppies. This night was much of the same, as jazz lovers from varying walks of life swayed and bounced as MMW's experimental reverberations resonated throughout The Fillmore. Mixing in a couple older, choice cuts with a heavy dose of newer material, Billy Martin's steady hands moved the trio into and out of interim spaces, perpetuating a cycle of dance friendly one minute, chaotic art the next.

For the ultra avid MMW fan, this was certainly the show you were in search of. Gliding piano work and pedal infused organ textures paired almost seamlessly with Wood's dexterous bass and drumming that would surely make Buddy Rich proud. At points, I was unequivocally blown away by the sheer musicianship displayed onstage. A number of "I'll just glance at you and you know exactly where I want to take this beat" type looks spoke for themselves, as the three continued to move as one singular unit and then, all of the sudden, morph into something else. That's what gets me: Just when they are settling into a pocket and finding some comfort deep inside, a tempo change and space shift ensues. This is to be expected with live MMW. The dexterity, talent and pizzazz are all there. It's just a question of how will it all be manifested on any given night.

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[Published on: 12/9/08]

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r0llingst0ned starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 11:45AM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Conjugal Burning starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 11:56AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Conjugal Burning

ahhh, good ole MMW, you can never go wrong. Met them once when i snuck into the Tall Stacks festival.. super chill... LEGENDS to this scene and any other that ventures to listen

NickBoeka Tue 12/9/2008 12:03PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


virtuoso's of their craft, and master's of the art. These guys simply Pwn everyone else who tries to step up and imitate....

TXfarmhouse Tue 12/9/2008 12:16PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


great hard working band, now get back down to TX!!!

PooDolla Tue 12/9/2008 12:20PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


One of the best bands out there. Always solid.

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 01:09PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


doesnt get much better than this.....the ultimate in improv

Jambizzle Tue 12/9/2008 01:23PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I have officially moved out of my college-age neo-hippy phase. I now enjoy wearing finely-knitted sweaters purchased with my hard-earned degree-neccessitated salary. Have and will always Love MMW, even when I'm sipping red at 40...probably even turn it up to drown out the whining of my kids!

Anyone know about Medeski's CatPaws? Reeaahhrr.

jimmy row Tue 12/9/2008 01:38PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


deadphish001 starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 01:49PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Show was truly amzing that night, and will go down as one of my faves from MMW. The more-obscure cover of Radiohead's Motion Picture Soundtrack was lost to many ears, but was a highlight for of the night. Friends and I also coined the term swampadelic jazz on a few of the more raw jams that were getting our dacin feet moving.

megustaphish starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 02:26PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


there should be more bands like mmw, LISTEN TO JAZZ!!!

Zapzapa Tue 12/9/2008 02:45PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


come back to Austin please

Ter starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 03:24PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


MMW is complete music genius. bar none the best experimental jazz band ever... saw them at the Aladdin in Portland last month by far best MMW show in last couple years of seeing them. Chris was just rippin up his bass and billy is something else with all the noises he can make sound so good - i mean the guy can bang on the side of his drum and it rocks

Lerxst20 Tue 12/9/2008 03:30PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Love MMW. Though was real dissapointed they skipped over Atlanta on their SE run of their tour. Come back to ATL guys.

ClaysTribe starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 04:51PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


amazing group, music needs to take more lessons from them, the L.A. show was just incredible. i sure do hope they come back soon

brooklynite84 Tue 12/9/2008 05:31PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I saw MMW in Oct of 07 in AZ for the first time and it was one of the grestest shows of my life. It was a more intimate setting with the stage in the middle of the theatre that rotated in circles as they played. I was expecting Johns giant organ set up, but instead he used just a piano for the whole show and it was just so on and tight. I've never seen Jazz played so well and to add a heavy experimental psychedelic sound with acoustic instruments made my brain melt. They play so well together and are masters of their instruments. These guys are the real deal and blow majority of modern and old artists out of the water...

rainydaywomen420 starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 06:10PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


best drums, best bass, absolute best keys(hammond in particular). nuff said

ao1 starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/9/2008 06:32PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


So good.......not enough talk about this band on jambase

sixstringbrad starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 12:06AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


These guys are some of the best out there. And when they get together with Scofield.... you can just forget about it. WATCH OUT!!! It's like musical dynamite!

mreezal Wed 12/10/2008 12:31AM
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world wide originators say word to me

RambleOnShelbyRose starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 12:40AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


saw these guys with john scoefield and i thought it was too normal, i like what the trio does on their own which is just so creative and crazy

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 06:13AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

they are three of the MOST TALENTED musicians in america. especially when they play together :)

and if you love Jazz/Fusion.

make sure to Listen to GARAJ MAHAL, and RETURN TO FOREVER.

both play on levels as high as MMW.

Love it :)

Jambizzle Wed 12/10/2008 07:11AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Ahhh Shi-ite. MMW w/ Scofield few years back was incredible!

And yes, Milesgone: Garaj Mahal is just as truly talented, creating their own genre as they go.

If you like Jazz/ yourself a favor and check out "Dojo Fusion Trio". 3piece from my college-town that is epic stuff.

r0llingst0ned starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 08:58AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Garaj Mahal is good, I would still have to take MMW though!!

db28 Wed 12/10/2008 10:03AM
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DJ Logis and MMW is when they are at their best

pattyohallo Wed 12/10/2008 10:28AM
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Return to Forever is the epitome of a jazz fusion band and undoubtedly had a great influence on a recoridng of the show and it's HOT...satan and won ton were the highlights in my opinion, but solid show all around

TXfarmhouse starstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 11:44AM
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its nice to finally see a huge list of positive comments!!! John M is the reason why I drink good wine and eat organic food.

PCPrabbit Wed 12/10/2008 01:57PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


loved them since i first heard uninvisible back in the day. MMW filled a niche in my musical reality.

Krondon starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 04:05PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

WOW, I dont think there was one hate filled message posted yet! Amazing!! MMW with the good vibes. Amazing musicians, true pioneers of the game.

bubbarock starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/10/2008 07:17PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


MMW is so fun to see while doing some doses...

nsafay Thu 12/11/2008 09:09AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

where is scifreak saying MMW sucks and the biscuits and sts9 are so much better?

MMW, PLEASE come to Asheville!!!

Jazzzzz starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/11/2008 10:14AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Petteluma Show - best outstanding show since 1998!

Much love -

Super fan for life!

fishbone1 starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/11/2008 06:28PM
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how bout a better music clip? one that is over thirty seconds long isn't too much to ask for is it? otherwise great review.

procon4 starstarstar Fri 12/12/2008 10:07AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

A couple of things:

1) Are you sure the "one-day festival in New Jersey" in the pouring rain wasn't Starscape in Baltimore, MD in 2006? Cuz that was before tDB and it was pouring. What NJ festival is he talking about?

2) 99% of the songs MMW played during this November tour are from the 3rd Radiolarians installment, that being the entire purpose of the Radiolarians project. They certainly didn't sample heavily from the first Radiolarians album. Was the "older choice cut" they played the cover of Crosstown Traffic?

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/17/2008 09:45PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


***just FYI (DL this MMW shows w/ Logic its NAAASSSSSTYYYY!!!!!!!!

cavemandan Thu 12/18/2008 04:24PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

MMW tried to be Jazz musicians in new york, but as anybody in new york knows.... that is nearly impossible with 10,000 virtuosos in the phone book! They found the jam band scene because we are open minded and it really has worked out best for both the band and the fans! I predict improvised music will one day be more popular than wanna be frat boy pretty boy bands that have infected our scene. Keep up the groovy grooves MMW+S! woooooooooooooot