Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Album Review: Medeski Scofield Martin Wood- Juice

Medeski Scofield Martin Wood
**and1/2 out of *****
On the first official pairing between these two jazz camps John Medeski, Billy Martin and Chris Wood primarily acted as sideman to John Scofield for A Go Go. Their work was magnetic as fans of jazz and jam melded as the players themselves hit it off immensely; both injecting life into their careers. They teamed up again, but this time on equal footing, for Out Louder in 2006 and it showed how naturally the four players worked together. On their newest studio offering as a partnership you get flashes of their collective greatness but also a sense that the combo may be running out of ideas.

Rather then a free form approach the band attacks Juice with constructed songs. The foursome clearly wanted to move from their jam past (for the most part) and attack individual writers contributions from all members as well as cover tunes and it is the selection of some of those songs that can get them in trouble. One that works expertly however is "Sham Time" as the group opens the album with Eddie Harris' groove vehicle with both keyboards and guitar dueling instead of Harris Saxophone.

The originals all show insight into the individual players personality and the group as a whole. Scofields "North London" is bright and sunny while Martin's "Louis The Shoplifter" showcases the low end with a Caribbean vibe. The group effort of "Juicy Lucy" takes Scofield's "Louie Louie" riff and pairs it with guest Pedrito Martinez's congo's as the group chats lively with each other.
Individually, Wood's contribution leans the most avant-garde with "Helium" that long time fans will be thankful for after Scofield's "I Know You" dulls, being to close to smooth jazz, for over eight minutes.  

All these tracks would make for an excellent release if paired with a few dazzlers, except what the combo compliments them with are lackluster classic rock interpretations in jazz form. While not quite musak versions they sadly aren't all that much better.

The selections of "Light My Fire" and "Blowin' In The Wind" are odd choices for this band and while the choices themselves are fairly lacking, what they do with the tunes is nondescript. The biggest offender is the reggae fueled "Sunshine Of Your Love" which goes for 11 minutes of tame island grooves. Wood and Martin are locked in at the low end but the extended track does little invigorate.

The original tracks from this now well weathered quartet still show some imagination and spark so it begs the questions why the cover tracks are so lifeless and exist on this release at all. Have the players involved reached the end of their partnership, or are they just waiting to do what they all do best, live in the moment?
Our first review for Jazzy January and we take on some favorites from 90's-00's jazz with MSMW. We dug the first few songs immensely but then things got really dull with the cover tunes...not sure the rationale behind that. Oh well.

Support the band here, buy the album here and peep some video below:

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