It seemed like an apocryphal moment. Summer of 1998, Medeski, Martin and Wood were playing Town Hall and the patrons looked a little different from your usual JVC Jazz Festival crowd. Scruffy, neo-hippie-ish Phishheads and the like danced away in the side aisles as the trio bounced through its set of jazzy grooves. Only a few years earlier, the group had announced its populist intentions to jazz elitists by interpolating Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself" into Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," and now they were reaching a big new audience, selling out without actually selling out. Many of us in the jazz community had longed for a moment like this. We were weary of jazz's consecration as an institutional art. We longed for those days when the music felt organic and dangerous and, well, not so goddamned middle-class. As the trio launched into Horace Silver's "Cape Verdean Blues" to fans who included folks dancing—dancing!—it seemed as if we'd found it. During the keyboard solo, John Medeski dug deep into the gospelly chords, Billy Martin and Chris Wood dropped out, and just as suddenly as the sermon began, he went into an inspired series of raucous free-jazz dissonances. To me, this was just getting better and better. I smiled at my hardcore jazz-loving friend, who grinned back. But then someone in the aisles yelled, "Stop fucking around!" It appeared there would be a few speed bumps on the road to... More >>>