By Dave Pehling
A kinetic experimental jazz trio reteams with one of the greatest living modern jazz guitarists at the SFJAZZ Center Tuesday night when Medeski Martin & Wood share the stage with regular collaborator John Scofield.
The trio of keyboard/organ/piano player John Medeski, drummer/percussionist Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood formed two decades ago in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Medeski and Wood, who had been studying at Boston’s prestigious New England Conservatory of Music, decided to move to New York City with intent to explore the late-night underworld of the city’s burgeoning jazz scene.
Teaming with drummer Martin, the trio began a kinetic exploration of experimental jazz that embraced spare, hip-hop beats and avant-garde improvisation equally. A run of albums for Gramavision and tireless touring expanded the trio’s following, a cultish fan base that hit an apex after the release of Shack-Man, a compilation of loose-limbed funky abstractions written and recorded at the band’s Hawaiian hideaway.
Further explorations found MMW recording for noted jazz imprint Blue Note, recording and touring with a full horn section and collaborating with noted turntable artists (DJ Logic and DJ Olive) and musicians like guitar giant Scofield. A masterful jazz improviser whose music deftly combines post-bop jazz, fusion, funk and soul, Scofield is known for his understated playing and sensitive comping. The guitarist cut his teeth with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Charles Mingus and Gary Burton before rising to greater prominence through his association with Miles Davis in the early 1980s. Since then, Scofield has led numerous groups showcasing his broad musical interests and tastes.
First collaborating with MM&W when the trio backed him for his album A Go Go in 1998, the four musicians have toured and recorded together several times including their 2006 effort Out Louder and the 2011 live release In Case the World Changes Its Mind. The group reconvenes as part of this year’s San Francisco Jazz Festival Tuesday night, previewing songs from it’s forthcoming new album on MM&W’s label Indirecto Records set for release this fall. Juice finds the quartet exploring hard-grooving, funky territory with interpretations of the Eddie Harris gem “Sham Time” and classic rock staples like Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” while slowing things down for a stately take on Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that closes the album.
Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood
Tuesday, June 17, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. $30-$70 (sold out)
SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium