Like many jazz ensembles, Um came together organically over the course of a matter of years until all of its members were in place. Initially formed in 1992 as a showcase for trombonist Hal Crook (Phil Woods, Tony D'Aveno) to present original pieces composed for the Trom-o-Tizer --a digital effects processor that harmonized his trombone parts and allowed him to be heard over a rhythm section -- the trio, which also featured drummer Bob Gullotti (the Fringe, Surrender to the Air), found a weekly gig in their native Providence, RI.
Soon, their regular bassist was replaced by guitarist Rick Peckham. As the months wore by, fans and fellow musicians continued to stop by to check out the group, whose original numbers often sounded like traditional be-bop run through a chaos filter. From time to time, as Crook played other engagements, bassist Dave Zinno (one of Crook's former students), would replace him for an evening. One night, the two crossed paths on the bandstand. Zinno was added a permanent member and the band was a quartet. The music often danced the line between free jazz, hard grooves, bebop, and swing.
As the band continued, a stream of musicians -- including George Garzone, Bob Brookmeyer, and Mick Goodrick -- sat in with the group. Eventually, Medeski, Martin, and Wood organist John Medeski (whom Gullotti had played with in Trey Anastasio's Surrender to the Air project) came through town. After several appearances, the band decided to record a few shows for posterity's sake. The resulting gigs -- recorded on May 11 and 12, 1999, at the band's home Club AS220 in Providence -- found their way onto disc on Stray Dog, released on Ropeadope Records in the fall of 2001, the in-house label for the extended Medeski, Martin, and Wood family. The group -- usually without Medeski, who is involved with myriad other projects -- continues to gig weekly in Providence.