Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Medeski/John Scofield ‘Hudson’ (Motéma) 4/5

The reference is in homage to New York’s Hudson River Valley and the various group members who reside around this location, and in turn recorded this album near the Woodstock venue that has obvious historical musical references. Thus the choice of pieces selected reflects the 1960s with Dylan, Hendrix and Joni Mitchell all receiving compositional makeovers, and a few choice originals that echo other aspects of the area, more particularly the Native Americans who first inhabited the Hudson Valley.

A reggae-tinged cover of Dylan’s, ‘Lay lady lay’, is one of the album’s highlights with a somewhat abstracted take on the classic, but with the firmest of reggae back beats supplied by DeJohnette. Indeed, this fine new interpretation rivals that of Jamaican keyboardist/vocalist Glenn Brown. John Scofield offers a new composition in, ‘El swing’, which does precisely what it says on the tin; a Spanish-themed undercurrent that hints at Corea’s Spain’, while some straight ahead swing and an extended, loping solo from Scofield. Another winner of a tune. Melodicism is the order of the day equally on, ‘Song for world forgiveness’, which is a DeJohnette piece with a long intro and some beautiful playing on electric guitar from John Scofield and piano by John Medeski.

One connecting feature between the two elder statesmen on the band is tenure at different periods with Miles Davis. This is celebrated on, ‘Tony then Jack’, the Tony in question presumably being drummer Tony Williams who preceded DeJohnette in the Miles band. If the piece starts off unexpectedly as a soul-jazz Hammond outing that Pat Martino might have featured on in the late 1960s, thereafter it then rapidly morphs into something entirely different. Miles was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix and the latter’s, ‘Wait until tomorrow’, receives a rousing version with Medeski operating on Hammond. The near eleven minute title track is in fact a brooding number that bears a strong resemblance to the ‘Bitches Brew’ era in Miles illustrious career, and the title serves also as the name for this collective supergroup.

At seventy-five minutes some of the numbers are lengthy and demanding, but with this quality of musicianship there is precious little fat to be cut off the bone. On the final piece, ‘Great peace spirit chant’, the listener is greeted by a host of flutes with an ode to Native Americans that incorporates collective chanting, authentic drum beats. A successful coming together of minds and devoid of any egos.

Tim Stenhouse