For nearly two decades, the restless, iconoclastic trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin (not the late Yankees manager), and bassist Chris Wood (not the late Traffic saxophonist) has experimented out on the wind-whipped precipice where jazz, rock, funk, and other stray genres of scintillating musical imagination crash, clash, and slash at one another with artistic abandon. Skilled musicians and fearless improvisers, MMW have created music with cunning melodic hooks, ferocious grooves, and sufficient waves of original ideas to capture the imaginations of rockers, avant-gardists, and jazz aficionados with equal fervor. They've also become regulars on the jam-band circuit. Lately, MMW has been onto something new even for them: The Radiolarian Series, whose second incarnation was released this week on MMW's own Indirecto label. Taking its name from marine protozoa noted for their intricate exoskeletons (made famous by German biologist Eric Haeckel's elaborate 19th-century illustrations, which grace the CD cover), MMW's aim is to turn standard music-biz operations on their head: performing all new material onstage in preparation for recording, rather than vice versa. So the charms of the newly issued Radiolarians II—from the industrial-rock crunch that yields to angular jazz maneuvering on "Flat Tires" to the lyrical, blues-soaked cover of the Rev. Gary Davis's "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," with plenty of detours into spacey sampling, samba, bop, noise, and even a flurry of avant-stride piano—likely won't be presented here, although what MMW do play with their inimitable touch should be plenty fascinating. With Up Bustle & Out. 18+.
Sat., April 18, 8 p.m., 2009