Review ·

Say what you want about Medeski, Martin & Wood's core fan base: The jazz-funk-experimental-noise trio's hippie-ish leanings can kill any type of buzz you might have, but the group is a great crossover story. Respect comes from all angles, and John Zorn has been behind the trio from day one -- which means the group is doing something right. A few years back, another jazz legend -- guitarist John Scofield -- sought MMW out after his daughter played him a bootleg. He had Medeski, Martin & Wood help out on his groove-oriented 1997 album, A Go Go, which served two purposes: It introduced Scofield to a new breed of jazz lovers, and it jumpstarted his career by injecting him into the burgeoning market built around younger jazz musicians who could also fill festival seats.


The first collaboration was a showcase for Scofield's guitar playing, but it rarely let the talented trio break out of its mold as rhythm keepers. Out Louder is a bit different: There is an equal billing, and with that comes an equal sharing of the spotlight. Throughout, the musicians shift between bluesy riffs ("Little Walter Rides Again"), On the Corner-era free-ness, and MMW's traditional slow, groovy funk. Scofield and John Medeski playfully trade licks throughout the album. Scofield wins on some tracks, and Medeski wipes him clean on others.


Since Scofield last recorded with Medeski Martin & Wood, the trio has pushed several envelopes in turns of what constitutes "groove" jazz, and it has alienated a few fans in the process. For better or worse, Medeski, Martin and Wood are experimentalists, and hints of this (thankfully) emerge here ("Telegraph"). Adding a fourth member to a band of musicians who are already very comfortable with each other was a risky endeavor, but they pulled it off for the most part. I'd take guitarist Marc Ribot in a proper collaboration any day, but this is a good compromise for now. 



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