Keyboardist John Medeski—he of the accomplished and massively popular trio Medeski Martin & Wood—is set to release his first solo piano album in early April. Titled A Different Time, the disc will be the first release on the newly re-launched OKeh imprint.
The album is more introspective than fans of MMW’s lively, groove-driven music might expect. Consisting mostly of Medeski’s own compositions and improvisations, with a familiar spiritual and a Willie Nelson song added to the mix, the album presents a different side of Medeski’s artistry, one which he was initially reluctant to display.
“In all honesty, it was a little scary to put this out because it’s so meditative and contemplative,” the keyboardist admits. “I know it’s not what anybody’s expecting, but it’s a side of me that exists. It’s really raw and open, stripped of all hipness. But it’s made me a little less afraid to just drop into the moment and play what’s coming to me as opposed to something that I know will work, something that I know is cool, something that I know will have a certain effect. The whole point is to get lost in the music.”
A Different Time marks the return of the historic OKeh label, once home to such jazz pioneers as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, King Oliver and Sidney Bechet. Sony Classical has revived the label as an outlet for new jazz releases by artists like Medeski, Bill Frisell, David Sanborn & Bob James, Craig Handy and others. “At this point,” Medeski says, “after everything that’s gone on in the music business, it’s exciting that Sony has come around to releasing new creative music again. I like the energy of being part of something new.”
While he’s become better-known for a more buoyant, organ-centric approach that melds freewheeling jazz with jam-band eclecticism, Medeski says that sitting alone at a piano feels natural, returning him to his earliest experiences at the keyboard. “I grew up playing piano my whole life,” he says, “so it feels like home to me.”
A Different Time drops on April 9. For more information, including tour dates, go to www.johnmedeski.com.