Thursday, October 12, 2006

Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood - Out Louder (Indirecto, 2006)

This is the belated follow-up the 1998 MMW collaboration with John Scofield, A Go-Go, and the music here is of a more collaborative nature rather than featured soloist and backing band. With a few exceptions, the music mines the same funky fusion territory with a few covers and on the two best cuts, the looming influence of John Scofield's one time boss, Miles Davis. I found that the music varied in quality, but preferred the uptempoed music, which focused the band and gave direction to their obvious talent. "Little Walter Rides Again" has a funky feel with some hip drumming and swirling organ... but if it's about Little Walter Jacobs, the bluesman, why no harmonica? "Miles Beyond" name checks Davis directly with a very cool track channeling the "dark funk" of his '73-'75 pre-retirement years. This is the best track on the disc - focused, potent and full of energy. "In Case the World Changes It's Mind" drops down into a more pedestrian funk groove. The problem with some of the more lumbering funk tunes is that they become faceless with nothing to distinguish them from other jams. "Tequila and Chocolate" takes something of a "Touch of Evil" (great Wells film) bordertown vibe. The music gets kind of swanky like Sex Mob's Sexotica experiment with Esquivel like lounge music. Scofield gets a nice solo that has a bit of a sharp Grant Green tinge to it.

"Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing" is a straight-ahead organ groover, a little goofy as can be expected with that title! "Chachaca" is another Latin sounding tune, with some nice "jazzy" soloing from Scofield, and some spacey organ fills behind. "Hanuman" has lonely bass clarinet or bari saxophone opening, giving way to a nice guitar and organ interlude. Scofield cuts loose here with some impressive soloing and the deep horn is integrated well into the song. "Telegraph" takes the group off the rails a bit using a creepy organ intro with some sound effects, and sounding more like an experiment then a fully formed song. "What Now," one of the disc gems, picks up the pace considerably by cutting a tough groove. Again the influence of 1970's Miles Davis is apparent, with this cut getting an On the Corner feel with the filthy sounding organ and guitar trying to slice through any opening available. I'd love to hear with foursome hook up with a nasty trumpet player and cut a "Yo-Miles" like tribute album, then they would really shine. The John Lennon song "Julia" is quite a juxtaposition coming off the wah fueled blast furnace funk, and comes off as a little too "radio-friendly" and respectful to make an impact. The elastic funk feel of "Down the Tube" should appeal to the jam band set. It's a fun jam, but lacks the cohesion of the developed set pieces. They wrap things up with a mildly funky cover of Peter Tosh's reggae song "Legalize It" and a bonus track of "In the Tracks" that has some bluesy harmonica (where was he on the Little Walter tune?) over guitar and drums. Scofield plays with a nice bluesy tone on this song. Overall, the disc has some impressive highpoints and the musicianship is first rate. While the quality of the material doesn't always measure up, fans of either MMW or Scofield will probably enjoy this collaboration.

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