Today, Medeski, Martin & Wood have released a brand-new album, Omnisphere, which they created in collaboration with Denver contemporary orchestra Alarm Will Sound. Released via Medeski, Martin & Wood’s own imprint, Indirecto Records, the seven-track album presents an ideal balance of new and familiar tunes, with Omnisphere featuring original music by members of both groups, plus new Alarm Will Sound arrangements of two cuts off MMW’s 2004 release, End of the World Party (Just in Case).
Omnisphere poses a compelling question: “What would happen if one of the most adventurous groups to emerge in jazz and improvised music in the last three decades were to join up with an orchestra that counts among the boldest forces in contemporary classical?” According to the press release, “The results are both expected, in the peerless level of the musicianship, and stunning, in the sweeping stylistic range of the program. But more than anything, Omnisphere speaks to the respect and creative kinship shared between these two trailblazing ensembles.”
“The more we worked together, the more I realized how perfect this is. How they are, for their universe, very much like us,” says keyboardist John Medeski. “We have a certain connection that’s like family and they’re like a family, so it’s like these two families coming together.”
Recorded live at The Newman Center in Denver, Colorado in February 2015, Omnisphere fulfills a long-held aspiration for Medeski, drummer-percussionist Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood. In the earliest days of the band, the trio would often listen to classical and chamber music as a source of musical inspiration, conceptualizing the idea of how to merge their freewheeling improvisational jazz explorations with the more composed approach of orchestral music.
“We had a collection of over 500 CDs, and that’s what got us through,” Martin said onstage in Denver, recalling MMW’s early road-warrior years. “And there was a lot of chamber music, contemporary classical music: Ligeti, Feldman, Sun Ra even. So sharing that and now we’re here, it’s a dream come true, and we love it.”
For Alarm Will Sound, the feelings were mutual. “We knew we had a winner of an idea,” says Alan Pierson, the ensemble’s artistic director and conductor. “A number of [our musicians] have really idolized Medeski Martin & Wood for years, and so there was a lot of excitement in the group.”
As John Medeski shared with Live For Live Music earlier in the year, prior to its release, this collaborative effort with Alarm Will Sound has been in the works for a while, coming about after the renowned jazz trio “played gigs in the Denver area with music they wrote, music that we wrote, and some old stuff rearranged for them.” At the time of the interview in January, Medeski hinted that MMW was also in the studio working on another record. He explained, “It’ll be out probably this coming year, for sure. There’s gonna be a film and a documentary around it about the band. … All new stuff, and it’s pretty exciting.”
You can listen to Medeski, Martin & Wood’s new album in collaboration with Alarm Will Sound, Omnisphere, below. Enjoy!