During the early 1990s, Medeski, Martin & Wood conjured up a heady, groove-oriented style that coincided with the increasingly rhythm-oriented approach John Scofield was developing. A year before the trio made the leap to Blue Note, those parallel paths intersected in 1998: MMW accompanied the guitarist in the studio on A Go Go (Verve), and they went on to perform some very selected live dates together. More than halfway into the not-so-new millennium, Scofield and MMW are collaborating again, and on a more egalitarian basis.
The quartet used MMW's own Indirecto record label to release the appropriately titled Out Louder, a decidedly looser, but no less funky CD than its predecessor. The opening cut, "Little WalterRides Again, absolutely smolders. Like the happily goofy and enigmatically titled "Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing, this track constitutes the first tangible sign of how inevitable the regrouping of these four musicians was.
Their four-way symbiosis is such the album sounds like a natural extension of its more tightly arranged predecessor. That said, "Hanuman is the one and only track that directly recalls that project, proof positive that when Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood decided to work together again, they refused to merely repeat themselves.
This Peter Tosh cover, "Legalize It, " is more significant for its musical logic than its thematic messageor is it?and it serves as an eminently climactic yet understated album closer. Yet MSMW's interpretation of the Beatles' "Julia is even more noteworthy: Scofield leads Medeski, Martin and Wood through one of the most conventional arrangements those three players have ever recorded. This quiet rendition of John Lennon's ode to his mother glows with a soft beauty.
In contrast, the quartet teasr through "Miles Behind, brandishing jagged edges on every front. It's not only in line with John Scofield's trademark guitar stylefluid tone clothed in a staccato attackbut it also recalls the noisy ambience into which MMW delved during the years they recorded the Blue Note releases Uninvisible (2002) and The Dropper (2000). "Telegraph is likewise the hard stuff, the result of creating an album largely out of the four-way jams MSMW then sculpted into shape in under a week at Shacklyn, the trio's Brooklyn studio. In contrast to MMW's End of the World Party (Just in Case) (2004), Out Louder doesn't sound obviously "produced." Rather, it stands a blueprint for the live shows the foursome is bringing around the country this autumn.
Jazz purists may not accept MMW into the idiom, and Scofield has endured his share of elitist criticism over the course of his career. But if this new combined effort represents anything, it is the joyous spontaneity at the heart of jazz. MSMW draw on the music's history as respectfully as they drive it purposely to the future.
Little Walter Rides Again; Miles Behind; In Case The World Changes Its Mind; Tequilia And Chocolate; Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing; Cachaca; Hanuman; Telegraph; What Now; Julia; Down The Tube; Legalize It.
John Medeski: piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond B-3 organ, wurlitzer, mellotron, clavinet; John Scofield: guitar; Chris Wood: acoustic bass, electric bass; Billy Martin: drums.
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