Medeski Martin & Wood was one of the first pure jazz groups who crossed over big time with the nascent jam band crowd in the mid-1990s. All three members — keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood — were fixtures on the avant-garde downtown music scene in New York in the ’80s, playing with people like John Zorn and John Lurie. They performed their first gig as a trio in 1991 at the famed Village Gate, but after they started touring almost full-time, their music escaped the insularity that characterized the downtown scene, becoming looser, funkier.
Medeski eventually switched from piano to organ when he discovered that the kinds of clubs they played didn’t always have decent pianos and, being primarily a touring ensemble, they couldn’t afford to lug one around. But the organ fits their singular groove-oriented sound better than piano did, and their slow-building reputation paved the way for a resurgence of organ-based jazz. MMW was also one of the first jazz groups to fully incorporate a DJ into their sound. In Japan they’re gods, and the decision to play New Year’s in Tokyo this year rather than in their home base, New York, signifies the value they place on their Japanese fans. Joining them for a very special evening in the True People’s Celebration series ( www.organicgroove.com ), TPC on NYE, will be DJ Olive from New York, DJ Baku and Izuru Utsumi.