(recently reviewed for JazzTimes; direct link)
MSMW, in the studio and onstage, everywhere from Bear Creek Music Festival in the north Florida woods to the Montreal Jazz Festival, always sounds like a natural-born partnership—the deep jazz-funk and experimental genius of Medeski, Martin and Wood running smack into the similarly tinted explorations of guitar master John Scofield. The particular pleasures of the quartet’s live work have finally been captured on an official release, with the two-disc In Case the World Changes Its Mind, a dozen tracks recorded during the tour supporting the group’s 2006 CD Out Louder.
The set begins, logically enough, with “A Go Go,” the title tune from the 1997 John Scofield album on which he was joined by MMW—the quartet’s initial collaboration. Billy Martin sets up the piece’s low-slung, laidback pocket groove, John Medeski flashes candy-colored keys, Chris Wood slides in on woolly upright and Scofield, his slightly overdriven, burred-edge tone intact, finally brings in the lean, catchy melody, which Medeski doubles before the solos arrive. Sco slithers and snakes through the heavily percolating rhythms while Medeski turns in a similarly zig-zagging improvisation. The traditional “Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing” opens with a long intro full of percussion sounds and scrapes before Wood plays the bluesy melody, Martin kicks in with a beat straight outta New Orleans and the band sets sail. The title track, credited to all four musicians, thrives on a simple but effective melody, repeated multiple times before the group heads out to space.
The second disc offers its share of gems, too, starting with Sco’s “Little Walter Rides Again,” with the guitarist and organist engaging in a bit of call-and-response on the hooky theme and Wood turning in a particularly inspired bass guitar solo. “Amazing Grace” thrives on a loosey-goosey guitar lead and soulful B3 declarations, and the disc closes out with the chunky-to-soaring “Hottentot,” powered by wah-wah and some of the set’s most impressive soloing. All-star bands seldom sound so organic, or play as well together, as this one. Letdowns? Only that “Chicken Dog,” “Chank” and MSMW’s gorgeous version of Lennon’s “Julia” weren’t included. Maybe next time.