Interview With John Scofield About Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood’s “Juice”

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood have announced a North American tour this December to support their forthcoming studio album, Juice, out September 16 from Indirecto Records.

The ten-night run will be preceded by a 14-date tour of Europe in November. Beginning at 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on December 4, MSMW will play select shows in both the Northern and Southeastern United States, highlighted by a hometown performance at Terminal 5 in NYC on December 11. They’ll conclude the stretch in the Midwest, which includes one night only in Canada at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall.
MSMW new record, Juice, a ten-track effort and the fourth recording between the four musicians in seventeen years of performing together, showcases what Paste Magazine recently described as “the group’s penchant for tight grooves and purposeful rambling.”

In addition to six original compositions, MSMW offer a boogaloo romp through legendary jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris’ “Sham Time,” a dubbed-out deconstruction of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love,” a playful post-bop reading of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” and the gorgeous hymn-like album closer, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

We at HYPE Music Festivals recently got the opportunity to ask improvisational jazz legend, John Scofield, a few questions about the new album.

HYPE (Phil Sunkel): You are about to release your Fourth studio album with MSMW, “Juice”. Could you tell me about the recording process and how you guys went about building the songs? Any personal favorites on the record?

J. Scofield: Well, this time we each suggested a cover tune and everybody contributed a few originals. We had decided that for this album we would concentrate on different grooves from the African diaspora like Afro/Cuban, Boogaloo, Brazilian, Reggae, etc.

So we composed with that in mind. We went into the studio in Woodstock with no rehearsal and worked on the music for four days and ended up with an album!

We did very little overdubbing except on “Sunshine of Your Love” which we approached as a Dub tune so we added a bunch of ambient overdubs. I love all my tunes for the most part.

HYPE: Why do you think you were able to put more personality and dynamics in the music than ever before?

J. Scofield: I think we’ve just improved with time. We’re playing well together, I think. MMW have played together for so long and I guess they are more comfortable with me now and visa versa.

But the fit was always there I think, starting in ’97 when I first got together with them.

HYPE: Along with six original tracks on “Juice”, you also recorded four cover songs? Why those four songs? Did you each select one? Was it difficult to just choose four to cover?

J. Scofield: Yes, we each selected one cover apiece, but “Sunshine of Your Love” started as an impromptu jam. It just happened. Somebody started playing the riff and we just felt it as a reggae tune. We all thought “hey, this works.” Very organic.

HYPE: What were some of the highs and lows of recording this record?

J. Scofield: All good, I think? I don’t know, it’s kind of a blur!

I know we didn’t have any trouble playing together, that’s always a great joy. Oh, I know. We had a snowstorm the last night and drummer Billy Martin couldn’t get his car started, it was frozen!

Rough winter in the Northeast, this last one. I think there was only one tune that didn’t end up on the album or as a bonus track somewhere, so we liked almost everything we came up with.

HYPE: Could you tell me a bit about why you named the album “Juice”?

J. Scofield: It seems to somehow reflect the music. We threw out a bunch of names before we found one everybody liked. Democracy is bitch!

HYPE: Haha that it is. could you tell me a bit about your 10-date US tour and about some of your European dates, what are you most looking forward to?

J. Scofield: For me I love playing wherever we’re appreciated. Because I’ve toured Europe so frequently for so many years it really feels like home over there.

Sometimes playing the hinterlands in the US can feel more exotic than overseas. I think we’ve all played in all of the cities on the tour before. We’re veterans! But I must say that getting to travel as much as I do has really shaped my outlook. We’re so lucky.

HYPE: Many people have a hard time defining your music. It seems to span several genres. How would you describe your sound?

J. Scofield: I think when you define music you limit it. The music comes first and then the media have to define it.

We all love so many kinds of music. Funk, Reggae, Brazilian, Afro Cuban, Avant Gard Improvisation, the Blues. New Orleans RnB, Rock n Roll, etc.

I’ve also got to say that what we’re able to do wouldn’t happen without jazz! Anyway, sorry I can’t help you more with a description. Oh well. Nobody sings on this album. Does that help?

HYPE: I’d say so. Last but not least, after the album is out what would you say is the goal for MSMW over the next year?

J. Scofield: To play as well as we can on tour and get better as a band and as musicians. And then we’ll see what’s next!

North American Winter Tour Dates:

December 4 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
December 5 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
December 6 – Westhampton Beach, NY – Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center
December 7 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
December 8 – Durham, NC – Carolina Theatre
December 9 – Atlanta, GA – Symphony Hall
December 11 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
December 12 – Toronto, ON – Massey Hall
December 13 – Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre
December 14 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue

MEDESKI SCOFIELD MARTIN & WOOD “Juice” is available September 16, 2014 from Indirecto Records on LP, CD & Digital.

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