(Indirecto Records, CD)
Medeski Martin & Wood are the standard-bearers of instrumental, organ-driven groove-jazz. John Scofield is a forward-looking guitarist who once skronked with the legendary Miles Davis. When these musicians join forces, as they did on Out Louder, the results are often remarkable.
The four previously played together on Scofield's 1998 album, A Go Go. The new disc is the first release on MM&W's indie label, Indirecto. While it's similar to their previous excursion, it's always fun to hear such versatile players musically converse.
Opener "Little Walter Rides Again" could be a lost Meters cut, albeit an inconsequential one. The song's generic-sounding breakbeat is met by pulsing B-3 organ and Scofield's insistent funk vamps. Consider it an appetizer before the main course.
The record gets more interesting in short order. "Miles Behind" is a scorching tribute to the deceased trumpeter/bandleader. The tune mines Davis' frenetic On the Corner explorations, combining melt-your face guitar fuzz with splats of colorful keyboards. It's all held together by Billy Martin's propulsive, jungle-style beat and Chris Wood's frantic bass line.
On "Tequila & Chocolate," Scofield serves up menacing arcs of Latin-tinged guitar, as John Medeski's organ stings like angry hornets. Subsequent cut "Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing" is a grubby-sounding funk number that was no doubt improvised.
Horror-movie camp pervades "Telegraph," which boasts creepy keyboard tendrils and effected guitar. It's on tracks like this that the band's broad musicality is revealed.
"What Now" is nearly as wild, with crankshaft rhythms and Scofield's sandpaper blues runs. "Julia," by contrast, is a meditative take on the Beatles classic. MSM&W's unhurried arrangement only serves to highlight the song's beautiful melody.
The funk gets hacked to bits on "Down the Tube," a shattered-sounding mix of stuttering rhythms and queasy guitar. The result is a little like Primus at jazz camp, which is to say, obnoxiously fun.
Closing cut "Legalize It" finds the group sweating through a downtempo bossa. Easily the dullest cut on the album, it would likely sound more interesting accompanied by a little contraband.
Out Louder is pretty much what you'd expect from these four gents. But that's hardly a bad thing, considering their instrumental prowess and near-psychic grooves. Hear what I mean when MSM&W play Higher Ground on Tuesday, Nov. 14.