Best Of

Best Jazz Artist


Medeski Martin & Wood remain one of the most accessible, vital, and goose-bump-producing jazz ensembles on the scene today, for more reasons than could possibly fit in a blurb. Although they’ve (unfortunately, and unfairly) become associated with the much-maligned jam-band scene, the Brooklyn-spawned trio (John Medeski, Billy Martin, and John Wood) have been making hypertechnical, boundary-pushing jazz since the early 1990s. It’s the kind of music that people who hate jazz might — just might — come to adore, and after more than 20 years together, these guys anticipate each other’s licks like they’re joined at the brain stem. For the uninitiated, the bouncy funk of their breakthrough Shack Man (1996) is a good place to start, what with its roiling, bass-heavy riffs that get the longhairs swinging. But keep Combustication (1998) on hand to chase off the hippies; the darker turns and eerie electronic samples will quickly turn their trip toward the bad. The band continues to innovate: The expansive, three-part Radiolarians series (2008–09) ranges from near-pop playfulness to decidedly abstract. They’ve since been playing New York City and the world and putting out live recordings as they go. Catch them in the city by all means — just ignore the granola crunchers.

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