Medeski Martin & Wood's career rise could be a course of study on how to transcend the commercial straightjacket that is jazz. MMW started out in New York's downtown outré jazz scene, which is a cool, creative place to be, but one that can quickly box you in. So they branched out, renting a place in the remote jungles of Hawaii and recording a couple of albums in a generator-powered shack. They also pulled a page from the punks: hopped in the van and gigged around the country wherever they could, including a lot of colleges. Just about that time, in the mid '90s, the jam-band movement was bubbling up, and MMW found a bigger and bigger following (which appears to be getting bigger all the time). The trio does not play jazz, per se, but is a highly improvisational outfit that lets its sets flow where they may. John Medeski plays all sorts of analog electric keyboards, coaxing all manner of sounds out of them. Chris Wood is an anchor on bass, and drummer Billy Martin, well, Billy Martin is a monster — not in the thunderous chops way, but with taste, imagination and a consummately funky groove.