“You want me to start it like that” is the first sounds one hears on the great new album Juice by Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood. All four members shine throughout the fourth album of this great collaboration. John Medeski, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood induce jaw dropping reactions when they play as a trio, and when you had a legend like John Scofield to the mix, the jaws can only get lower to the floor. After that initial start of “Sham Time”, the foursome meander through some latin-jazz that will get you moving in your seat right away. In an interview with Relix, John Scofield gives a track by track breakdown of the record and it is wonderful to get some insight to how they worked through the album. Each member brought a few songs to the group and let the other three tackle it to their liking. All 10 tracks leave you wanting more as one goes by and the next one starts.
“North London” is driven by a call and response between Scofield’s guitar and Medeski’s organ trading off sections of the tune. The ease that the four of them feel when in a room together to experiment and push one another is beautiful. Scofield takes the riff from “Louie Louie” and turns it just slightly to the left as Martin’s drums start up to make “Juicy Lucy” the Latin-Jazz cousin of the famous riff. “I Know You” sees quiet spaces enter the music as no one member dominates the song and the blank area of the song become a fifth member of the group. “Light My Fire” and “Sunshine of Your Love” are two of the most famous songs to come out of the 60’s and one is completely turned on its head by MSMW on the record. “Light My Fire” is similar in beat and the guitar does what would have been the vocals to the song, while “Sunshine of Your Love” becomes a reggae filled jazz piece that barely resembles anything we know of the song. Both are beautiful in their owns ways and its great to see these talented musicians tackle such legendary songs.
The last song is a cover of “The Times They are A-Changin'” and it sees the band be the quietest they are on the whole album. They take one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs and make it a moody jazz song that you can rally behind. The band truly shines again when it isn’t stuffing notes upon notes into the song and lets each member stretch out their parts to fill the voids left by the other members, with Wood’s bass driving the beat in the middle of the entire mix. The only downfall of this album is that it ends and you don’t know when the next time Scofield will join MMW in the studio. If only MSMW was a permanent group, every year to two years a new album of delectable jazz would be in your ears from these four great musicians. Catch them on tour this winter at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer on December 5th, Boston’s House of Blues on December 7th, and New York City’s Terminal 5 on December 11.
Key Tracks: Sham Time, Juicy Lucy, The Time’s They are A-Changin’
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