(photo stolen from Scott Bernstein)
Last year's pick was Jim James.
2009 = Portugal. The Man
2008 = Apollo Sunshine
Having been lucky enough to see and hear so much music in 2011, there were plenty of good choices to pick from. If I was being true to myself, Portugal. The Man would be the pick (saw them 6 freakin' times and one of my favorite albums of the year), but they were my favorite in 2009, and c'mon, no repeats! Other worthy picks could easily have been White Denim (blew me away live twice, top 10 album of the year and a pretty sweet EP taboot) or even the Middle Brother/Dawes/Deer Tick/Delta Spirit family which had multiple great albums and shows throughout the year.
When it comes down to it, though, I decided to get a little historical, risk whatever indie cred I have and go with Medeski, Martin and Wood who celebrated their 20th year in existence with a superlative year of making music. Whether as a trio or in random other configurations, it seemed barely a month in 2011 went by without the opportunity to see some sort of project involving multiple members of MMW. Alas, I saw only a tiny fraction of them, but every time it was something special, whether it was an August resideNYC(TM) in the cool, intimate Whitney Museum space or a big MMW+Anitbalas Halloween blowout in Terminal 5.
Personally, I saw:
- an awesome mini-set from Medeski, Martin & Dunn (Trevor Dunn) playing as part of the John Zorn Masada fest at the NYC Opera
- MMW at the Whitney, one set with the master musicians of Jajouka and another with John Scofield
- a second night at the Whitney with BMW + Mr Rourke (Charlie Burnham, Medeski and Wood).
- that awesome Halloween show at Terminal 5. Review here.
All of these were amazingly groovy, mind+body music sets. I loved every note. But, again, this was just a small taste of what these guys did this year. NYC taper extraordinaire, Scott Bernstein (@scott_bernstein) captured so much of their output this year, it'd take you a month just to digest it all:
(a flavor in reverse chronological order, click on links for downloads)
- 12/11 John Medeski sitting in with Club D'Elf
- 12/2 Mago & Wicked Knee @ Helsinki Hudson
- 12/1 Mago & Wicked Knee @ Le Poisson Rouge
- 10/29 MMW + Antibalas @ Terminal 5
- 8/26 MMW w/ DJ Logic @ Whitney Museum
- 8/19 Martin/Wood/Burnham/Mr Rourke @ Whitney Museum
- 8/16 Wood Brothers @ City Winery
- 8/5 MMW + Scofield @ Whitney Museum
- 6/11 MMW @ Summerstage
- 5/11 Wicked Knee @ Sullivan Hall
The trio didn't release an album proper this year, but instead doled out a few (FREE!) 20th anniversary tracks at a time, which included every kind of music you might expect from MMW -- from DJ Olive remixes, to can't-get-no-funkier jams; from total sonic noise jams to (nearly)straight jazz... so that by the end of the year there essentially was a full album of music to enjoy. Not to mention a great new Wood Brothers album and a Medeski, Martin, Wood and Scofield live release.
There were a lot of great acts that kinda owned 2011, but through my eyes, having done it for so long, it's amazing and awe-inspiring how much Medeski, Martin & Wood owned their 20th year.