By: Vince Lewis
John Medeski (keyboards), Chris Wood (bass) and Billy Martin (drums and other percussion) have reunited with guitarist John Scofield on MSMW Live: In Case The World Changes Its Mind. Their first collaboration was on Scofield’s album A Go Go and later on Out Louder, which was released in 2006. This recording is a live collection of twelve tracks featuring songs from those two previous efforts.
Scofield states that much of the music was produced when the group would “play free stuff, listen back, make a song out of it, and then go back with that idea in mind and play free again.” The result is an energetic and edgy sound full of funk and dance grooves. The music is drawn from a combination of jazz, funk and blues, appealing to listeners who probably would not be fans of jazz standards, but more appreciative of the Herbie Hancock and Joe Sample and the Crusaders jazz/rock genre.
“A Go Go” is the funky shuffle beat opening track of Disc number one. Scofield states the opening melody with his moderately overdriven guitar tone and is then joined in unison by Medeski’s keyboard. The solos basically are crafted over one chord change and are strongly modal in nature. “Deadzy” begins with a mysterious and airy keyboard ripple effect with Scofield playing solo lines in the background. The melody line then appears and continues over the constant original bass line and rhythm pattern before the free solos.
“What Now” is a funk tune full of heavy distortion both in the keyboard solo and Scofield’s guitar work as well. It’s based on only a couple of chord changes once again, with Wood and Martin exploding rhythmically. Scofield’s use of wah wah effect at times definitely brings back the feeling of the 1970s. “Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing” opens with an almost carnival organ sound and Wood stating the beginning of the melody on bass. Scofield plays the bridge, and the group settles into a somewhat Latin groove. Wood is also featured on his composition “Cachaca,” and his technical skills are evident from the start. The title cut, “In Case The World Changes Its Mind,” is a medium funk tune with everything from a Gospel feel to harmonica-sounding effects. This first disc ends with “Miles Behind,” which gives Martin an extended solo opportunity.
The second CD leads off with “Little Walter Rides Again.” Martin starts the proceedings with a funky street beat and is joined by Scofield’s rollicking distorted guitar melody. “Hanuman” begins with swirling church organ keyboard changes and Scofield flying around the neck in free flowing bursts of single note lines. It becomes an out of time excursion for a while, and then settles into a steady medium groove. A Gospel ballad treatment of “Amazing Grace” has the melody stated by Scofield with Medeski providing a solid B3 organ underpinning. It soon receives the standard overdriven and funky tone that Scofield is famous for. The closing selection is “Hottentot,” an appropriate finish as the medium funky groove stays solidly propelled by Wood and Martin.
All of the material presented here (except for “Amazing Grace”) is composed by members of the quartet. It was performed on the band’s 2006 MSMW tour, and the audience sure contributed to the energy of the music.
Fans of MSMW will surely find this to be something to add to their collection. It is energetic and free flowing, and can be best appreciated by an audience that is looking for more of a rhythmic groove than the complexities of other forms of improvised music.