To a jazz fan, the combination of the names Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood is inherently intriguing. Between the famous trio’s ability to craft beat-driven, catchy instrumentals and John Scofield’s impressive résumé — he has backed Miles Davis and countless other legends — the combination of the two is an ideal fusion for contemporary jazz listeners.
On In Case The World Changes Its Mind, a new double-live album from its 2006 tour, the band sounds notably looser than it does on Out Louder, the combined group’s initial studio experiment from the same year. The quartet feeds off the audience and finds a lighter, more energetic pocket with which to keep heads bobbing; “A Go Go” feels like a breath of fresh air when compared with its studio counterpart, kicking off the album with a thick melodic groove. Songs off of Out Louder or Scofield’s own solo effort A Go Go (during the production of which the four musicians first collaborated), are livelier and bleed into each other through free-jazz segues.
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The album manages to offer a catchy mix of both artists, while allowing some of their extremes to show through; Medeski, Martin and Wood’s more abstract improvisations challenge the listener from time to time, and Scofield’s dizzying melodic runs erupt out of his lyrical solos. The effect is a musically engaging tug-of-war; tracks like “Deadzy” and “Hanuman” rise and fall through improvisations that begin to stretch the tempo of the song, but just as a sort of rhythmic vertigo sets in, a refrain from Scofield or the sound of Wood’s bass grounds the music once again in a comfortably melodic realm. “Hottentot,” the album’s closer (penned by Scofield), strikes the balance particularly well, trading gritty melodies between Medeski’s wavering Hammond organ and Scofield’s guitar.
Across the album’s two live sets, songs range from New Orleans shuffles to Latin grooves and funkier fusion tracks. And though the work of both halves are worth their own study, the rounded edges that result from Scofield’s musical partnership with Medeski, Martin and Wood make it an easy introduction for the uninitiated.