Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski & John Scofield: Hudson
Several things become clear as you listen to Hudson, the debut album by the quartet of Jack DeJohnette (drums), Larry Grenadier (bass), John Medeski (keyboards) and John Scofield (guitar). First is an immediate reminder that each of these musicians is an uncontested virtuoso. But that’s not news. With long, proven track records—nominal leader DeJohnette, at 74, is one of jazz’s most celebrated drummers, having played for more than five decades with everyone from Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins to Bruce Hornsby and Esperanza Spalding—every one of these players is an in-demand individualist whose presence on any recording guarantees innovation. More important is the level of camaraderie that permeates the grooves, suggesting that these four have been making music together for ages, even if their first gig together took place at the 2014 Woodstock Jazz Festival. About half of tracks, including the title tune (so named because all four reside in New York State’s Hudson Valley), are new originals, but the true ingeniousness of the collaboration is best exemplified in the covers. Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (all celebrating the locale in one way or another), and Hendrix’s “Wait Until Tomorrow” are deconstructed and reimagined from the ground up. With Medeski bringing a soul-jazz rootsiness to the arrangements, Scofield demonstrating his seamless adaptability from track to track and a rhythm section for the ages anchoring it all, Hudson feels both progressive and down-home. It’s not an easy balance to achieve, especially with such grace.