In essence Hudson is all about a bunch of long time friends getting together and playing to their hearts’ content. Only those four friends just so happen to be elder statesman of jazz at their peak, the result is sheer musical magic. The quartet of Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski and John Scofield have so much talent that listing all their collaborations and awards would take the better part of a few A4 pages but here are the headlines.
Band leader, DeJohnette, is one of the most famous drummers in jazz. His roots stretch back to the early sixties, he played with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, and has provided rhythms for Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and just about everybody who’s somebody in the jazz world. Larry Grenadier has been strumming his bass strings professionally ever since he was 16 and had his talent called for by Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny and Joshua Redman among many other collaborations since the early nineties.
John Scofield is one of the most influential guitar players of his generation. His unique style is as recognisable as George Benson or Wes Montgomery. His collaboration with Medeski, Martin & Wood established him as a musician who can adapt to funk as well as bop (and be). You can find his name associated with Steve Swallow, Larry Goldin, Elian Elias, John Patitucci and many others. John Medeski is part of Medeski, Martin & Wood, a band instantly recognisable for its sound and musical talent. He is a keyboardist equally adept at playing distorted electronica and accompanying Phil Lesh’s various Southern rock/blues/country blues session bands. Medeski and Scofield have worked together on many albums and tours as part of MM&W.
The combined talent shines from the first note, Hudson is a sumptuous album, and it is hard to judge if grace or sheer talent are driving it. There is a sense of togetherness about it that is hard to describe but creates the most attractive noise that one could wish to hear. Whether it is the opportunity to hear Medeski tinkling the ivories of a grand piano or the very gentle riffs of Scofield which are so familiar yet elevated to new heights. Or it’s the gentle backing of DeJohnette that ties the band together, or even Grenadier’s bass notes that fill and syncopate to augment is hard to tell but it sure hangs together well.
The album contains homages to a range of classic Americana courtesy of Dylan, Hendrix, Mitchell and the Band. In addition, it features original material and a nod to both gospel and native American chants. The interpretations breathe new life into ‘Lay Lady Lay’ and ‘Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, ‘Woodstock’, ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’. Offering whole new vistas onto oh-so familiar tunes, all of which are associated in some way to the Woodstock festival which took place in the Hudson Valley nearly fifty years ago.
Lovers of pure straight jazz will be dazzled by ‘Tony Then Jack’ a fast paced classic bop that does not sound out of place on this album and helps to complete the exhilarating musical ride that this amazing quartet produces. The familiar tunes of Dylan, Mitchell Hendrix and The Band naturally integrate with the title track, a funky number that is reminiscent of the MM&W/Scofield sound.
The recording is very natural, you get a good sense of the room the musicians are playing in and it’s a joy to listen to throughout. In fact I haven’t stopped listening to it for three days now, whether on a high end hi-fi system, mobile device or in the car, it oozes energy and quality. The talent of these musicians gets more immense and impressive as the years pass, I hope this is not their last collaboration. And I really hope that DeJohnette, Grenadier, Scofield and Medeski get on the road and play in the UK for a few nights.