Motema Music, LLC
As far as modern-day jazz supergroups go – this one is pretty, pretty good: master drummer (occasional pianist and also – here – cameo vocalist) Jack DeJohnette is joined by supple, subtle bassist Larry Grenadier (Brad Mehldau, Herbie Mann, Charles Lloyd, Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman), John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood) and journeyman jazz guitarist John Scofield – they have done some “in-house” collaborating over the years too, DeJohnette and Scofield first teaming together some 40 years ago, Medeski and Sco recording several albums together recently with Scofield joining Medeski Martin & Wood for a time and Medeski appearing on a handful of Scofield’s recordings.
So for this – possibly the self-titled debut of a group that will go on to be called “Hudson” (though for now their surnames stand proud on the cover) – it’s a mix of covers and originals. The covers coming from the world of rock/pop, the originals showing the pedigree of the players and touching on some of the legacy references; the opening, title track sounding like fusion-era Miles Davis which both DeJohnette and Scofield were a part of, a decade and a half apart, Scofield burns on the straight ahead bop of his composition, Tony Then Jack, which not only places Tony Williams’ Lifetime in mind as one of the combos most likely an antecedent of what we’re hearing now it makes the claim, fairly overtly that Jack DeJohnette is the next in line after Williams.
Medeski’s funky organ is a highlight across the set – and there’s such a muscular drive to this album with all four players so good at their own version of a rhythmic churn, and dynamite when working together.
It’s the covers that really delight – all of them linked to upstate New York – Woodstock and the Hudson Valley. First off Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay has a mild reggae tilt to its rhythm here with Scofield in charge of stating the melody, Joni’s Woodstock is more brooding in its intro, the tone and timbre of DeJohnette’s cymbals and toms mercurial and moody with Scofield and Medeski working together to provide the ‘voice’ of the tune. Grenadier the anchor, as is his way, his playing on this tune and across the album is a delight.
There’s something special here in the way that all the players feature but there’s no limelight-hogging, Scofield’s playing might appear at first to dominate, but he’s the band’s “lead vocalist” in a sense; that is until DeJohnette steps up to the mic to give a grainy ballad a slinky, gospel feel on Dirty Ground.
Where Lay Lady Lay was all about the glorious melody, the band is more covert when covering Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A Gonna-Fall, issuing groove first before Scofield’s diamond-cutting guitar lines give us hints of where the words went and how they worked. |
Hendrix’s Wait Until Tomorrow gives Sco a real chance to blow. He relishes the chance to tap into Hendrix’s tone but keeping it jazz-like is the DeJohnette approach to a rock backbeat.
The Band’s Up On Cripple Creek has Medeski trotting out some barrelhouse as well as the organ – he gets to be both Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson and puts his own stamp on both parts while Grenadier and DeJohnette set up a rootsy, bluesy rhythm for Scofield’s guitar to trace across.
Hudson is a laidback set of jams re-contextualising the rock classics and offering just enough jazz in the right places. The originals are warm and inviting too, particularly DeJohnette’s Song For World Forgiveness.