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Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood: Out Louder

John Scofield

It may sound incredulous to veteran fusion heads, but there’s a cultish fan base who believes John Scofield’s A Go Go is as important a jazz record as Head Hunters. A Go Go was Scofield’s 1998 collaboration with downtown jam-jazzers Medeski, Martin and Wood, a recording that introduced Scofield to the youthful (and loyal) jam-band audience, in addition to legitimizing MMW’s claim as an evolutionary step in soul-jazz rather than a Jimmy Smith trio recast for Deadheads and DJs.

All the attention was well-deserved, and A Go Go is, truth be told, a groove masterpiece. It’s perpetually funky yet restrained and understated, and Scofield and Medeski solo with postbop- and avant-garde-inspired harmonic daring where blues clichés might have sufficed. Most importantly, Scofield’s tunes were as memorable and well-designed as Blue Note standards without sounding derivative. “Hottentot,” “Chank” and the title track are as strong contenders for inclusion in the Real Book as anything written in the last 20 years.

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