by Sylvannia Garutch
Drummer Jack DeJohnette has been smacking brass and skin with a jazz beat for eight decades. Always searching for something new, DeJohnette has created yet another group: the collaborative ensemble he calls, Hudson. The lineup includes: guitarist John Scofield, keyboardist John Medeski, and bassist Larry Grenadier. The self-titled album and band is named after the valley that they all call home. Also, the group performs music of popular musicians associated with the area; Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” Jimi Hendrix’s, a Woodstock veteran, “Wait Until Tomorrow” and Robbie Robertson’s “Up on Cripple Creek.” Two Dylan covers: “Lay Lady Lay” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
“Lay Lady Lay” has Scofield handling the melody with an electric bite that is reserved, yet pushing with his ornamentations of slides, bends and vibrato. Medeski’s organ pad is full and leaves just enough room on the bottom for Grenadier’s active bass line. DeJohnette creates a pulse that is infectious, with rumbling toms and well-placed cymbal crashes, he pushes each solo to improvisational ecstasy. Scofield’s solo is very creative, the flurries of notes, bending screams and pushing and pulling of the beat is a joy to listen to and the guitarist seems inspired on this track.
“Woodstock” starts with DeJohnette leading the band into a reserved, but focused, presentation of Joni Mitchell’s tune. Medeski is on piano for this selection, he is sensitive to Scofield’s melodic sense and keeps the relaxed bluesy nature for his solo. Scofield’s solo seems to intertwine with DeJohnette’s cymbal work, taking rhythmic motifs and developing them.
“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” finds Scofield phrasing the melody in such a way that you know he has heard this tune thousands of times and it is a part of his DNA. When he goes to solo though, he instantly spins out a series of angular lines that screams modern jazz. His entire solo is just wonderful, harmonically rich and his lines are very saxophone sounding with just the right amount of overdrive to offer sustain. The group collectively channels his energy, both DeJohnette and Medeski follow suite with Grenadier holding down the fort. DeJohnette’s cross rhythms and arcing rhythmic swells are stunning. Medeski’s harmonic colors are right in line with Scofield’s and when he goes to solo, he builds on these colors even more. The song’s sense of energy and colors is Hudson at its best.
Hudson is just another great collaboration for DeJohnette to display his mastery of improvised music and the power of being in the moment. Each track offers something catchy and assured with just a sprinkling of Bitches Brew at the right moments. Each member adds to the project and play prodigiously both individually and as a group. So, if you are a jazz fan, it is inevitable that one of these guys must be on your favorite list; Hudson will not disappoint.