Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood at the Ogden, 12/7/12 (photos, review)By Jason Blevins | December 10th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
With simmering yet crisp compositions and explosive, creamy improvisation, Scofield melded well with the jazz trio, which has a long history of delivering the soulful boogie with the biggest talents in jazz and rock. The jazz giant’s 1998 “A Go Go” – his first of two studio albums he’s made with the psychedelic wanderers MMW – is seminal in the history of jazz fusion, one of the best blendings of harmonic jazz grooves since Jimmy Smith.
The four-top pulled heavily from “A Go Go” and 2006’s “Out Louder” on Friday, delivering tight renditions and impressive transitions bridging expansive jams. There’s no question drummer Billy Martin, bassist Chris Wood and keyman John Medeski share some sort of telepathic connection, able to sprightly spin off each other’s ramblings. Scofield jumped right onboard, often leading through tricky segues.
From the Miles Davis-tinged “Hanuman” opener to the freewheeling improvised fusion of “Boozer” and “Miles Behind,” the band throbbed through every form of jazz imaginable. They channeled The Meters’ brazen funk in the swampy “Southern Pacific” and delved deeply into the abstract in “Chank.”
MMW can sometimes barrel headlong down one-way roads, only to execute awkward 17-point U-turns as they fight to regain their lockstepped groove. Scofield seemed thrilled in these improvised meanderings, happily flexing his technical jazz roots with clanging, off-kilter aplomb. An Ogden highlight certainly was Scofield’s buoyant phrasing on “Scarlet Begonias,” which he drove into Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It,” using his signature breaks to build polyrhythmic layers within the reggae anthem.
Likewise Scofield’s start-stop teasing in Lennon’s “Julia” was all his own, taking few cues from the original, with Medeski’s humming melodica fitting well with Wood’s stand-up bass. It’s amazing that Martin – who rolls barebones with only two toms, two snares and a single ride cymbal, can stay abreast of Scofield’s authoritative roaming, laying down mad beats while hovering in his richly syncopated pocket. Martin’s subtle off-topic snare slaps work so well with Scofield’s breaks, it’s a wonder they aren’t lifelong stage partners.
Truly it’s amazing all four of the musicians on stage Friday aren’t brothers, sharing prescient bonds as they sculpt their oracular jazz.
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.
Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder based photographer of everything, a self-professed music junkie and regular contributor to Reverb. Check his photos out on Facebook or his website.