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 giantâ€™s 1998 â€śA Go Goâ€ť â€“ his first of two studio albums heâ€™s made with the psychedelic wanderers MMW â€“ 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 â€śA Go Goâ€ť and 2006â€™s â€śOut Louderâ€ť on Friday, delivering tight renditions and impressive transitions bridging expansive jams. Thereâ€™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 otherâ€™s ramblings. Scofield jumped right onboard, often leading through tricky segues.
From the Miles Davis-tinged â€śHanumanâ€ť opener to the freewheeling improvised fusion of â€śBoozerâ€ť and â€śMiles Behind,â€ť the band throbbed through every form of jazz imaginable. They channeled The Metersâ€™ brazen funk in the swampy â€śSouthern Pacificâ€ť and delved deeply into the abstract in â€śChank.â€ť
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.â€¨ An Ogden highlight certainly was Scofieldâ€™s buoyant phrasing on â€śScarlet Begonias,â€ť which he drove into Peter Toshâ€™s â€śLegalize It,â€ť using his signature breaks to build polyrhythmic layers within the reggae anthem.
Likewise Scofieldâ€™s start-stop teasing in Lennonâ€™s â€śJuliaâ€ť was all his own, taking few cues from the original, with Medeskiâ€™s humming melodica fitting well with Woodâ€™s stand-up bass. Itâ€™s amazing that Martin â€“ who rolls barebones with only two toms, two snares and a single ride cymbal, can stay abreast of Scofieldâ€™s authoritative roaming, laying down mad beats while hovering in his richly syncopated pocket. Martinâ€™s subtle off-topic snare slaps work so well with Scofieldâ€™s breaks, itâ€™s a wonder they arenâ€™t lifelong stage partners.
Truly itâ€™s amazing all four of the musicians on stage Friday arenâ€™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.