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NPR First Listen: 'Hudson'

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Thursday June 01, 2017

From NPR Music

First Listen: DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski & Scofield, ‘Hudson’
By: Nate Chinen

There’s a memorable stretch in Hudson, the debut album by a new jazz supergroup of the same name, when a megaton of subtext finds expression in purely musical terms. It happens in the second half of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” a cover of the apocalyptic Bob Dylan song.

Up to that point, the band — drummer Jack DeJohnette, guitarist John Scofield, keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Larry Grenadier — has been bobbing ahead in waltz time, with Scofield venturing progressively further out on a harmonic limb. Then something begins to warp and buckle in the tune. The tempo pulls apart, and Medeski’s coloristic whooshes on organ grow troubled and dark. This swirling abstraction of the theme is true to Dylan’s original intention: a flash of dread that manages to be both heady and soulful.

Hudson does well along that razor’s edge, giving familiar fare an unexpected new tilt, and making original tunes feel durable and broken-in. The group is a confab of four master improvisers who never hesitate to lay down a groove, with DeJohnette, who turns 75 this summer, setting the bar. There’s a tangle of past collaboration in these ranks — look to Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, or Trio Beyond — but Hudson has its own metabolism, with a name alluding to New York’s Hudson River Valley, where all the musicians currently reside.

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