Medeski, Martin and Wood- Beforehand
My experiences with the great Trio BEFORE they were famous.
Medeski, Martin and Wood are longtime friends of mine. Very glad for their success.
But here are some stories from my gigs and experiences with them before they were famous as a Trio.
John and I met at New England Conservatory, known as NEC. He was a classical piano major, studying with the great Leonard Shure . John was the pianist in my True Colors Big Band, and we frequently played small group jazz gigs together too.
John came up in Florida, where he played with Jaco Pastorius- I heard the tapes.
Bt all accounts a brilliant musician, John is very multi talented and flexible. He plays acoustic piano, B3 organ, and various keyboards with equal aplomb.In fact, I recall John playing keyboards where many broken keys were replaced by popsicle sticks or the broken keys had bits of silver electrical tape on them. John was so hip- he didn’t FIX those keys, he just played around them !!.
We worked together in Boston first, then in NYC. Chris came to NEC a couple years later, which is when he and John connected musically. Then, the two of them met Billy. When they played a week at the Village Gate under John’s name as a trio ; the alchemy occurred and the rest is history.
John had/has an acerbic wit that deflated anything jive around him, and he was crazier when he was younger; I’ll just pinpoint the time he was chasing sheep on our friend’s farm out West of Boston. A hysterically funny dude. A sweet person, who just might send a barbed poison dart your way, verbally speaking.
I do remember gigging with John in a quartet assembled by a woman bassist, where we had to drive from NYC to New England for shows at Goddard College in Vermont, and Dartmouth in Hanover NH. Suffice it to say, at that point John was, um not always reliable, so I was astonished when he was almost on time at my pad in Chelsea around 6 am for the long drive. I always remember it, cuz it was my first car, and somehow we spilled coffee all over the front seat. We DID get to the gigs at which Bob Moses was again the drummer. I got food poisoning at an Indian Restaurant in New Hampshire, and was so sick, that even on returning to NYC after John and I stopped at a friend’s in Otis, Mass, I had to take a cab with my head in my girlfriend’s lap , cuz sick as I was, we had tix for FRANK SINATRA at Radio City, and I was goddamned if I was gonna miss THAT. Frank was transcendent, especially “ Angel Eyes”. But back to the Trio.
Billy and I played on a classic cd Moses made , “Time Stood Still” ( Gramavision).
But a lot of the music we made back them is on the air, unless one of you tapers out there has it?
On a separate tip, Billy Martin is a great percussionist I heard with the Bob Moses group. I didn’t even know he was a great set drummer too until he asked me to join his band , Illy-B. With Rolf Sturm ( guitar) ; Stomu Takeishi ( electric bass ) and me ( tenor sax, piccolo), we carpooled from Manhattan once a week to Billy’s loft in what is now known as DUMBO - it wasn’t called that then. We created the music together, but Billy’s ideas and grooves were the basis for most of, if not all of it.
We learned Billy’s originals by ear. I don’t recall any written music. We played the Knitting Factory and other small East Village clubs, and one memorable gig outdoors at Princeton U. in New Jersey. We did a studio recording, you may find it somewhere on cassette. Billy was about groove , creativity, and what he called “ Flying Things In”- soundwise. This was a killing band ; it’s too bad we didn’t get to do more with it.
MMW was a grass roots opp: they booked their own tours, drove themselves all over the country, hauled their gear, and built a name for a groove Trio that superceded most “ jam bands” due to their superior musicianship. Billy designed their now famous logo: he is an artist with a fondness for Paul Klee.
I played with them a bit AFTER they were known as MMW; A few well documented Shack Parties from the Knitting Factory from 1996 ; and one original tune in the studio that I co-wrote with Billy via jamming with Illy-B. We called it Hip Hop Satellite. I have never heard that track since we recorded it . If it’s out there somewhere, MMW fans, let me know.