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Published: 2013/01/31
by Mike Greenhaus

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: Still A Go Go

You recently did a few shows in Colorado in addition to Jam Cruise. Did you work on any new songs or covers for those shows?

JM: It was always very great when we get together. I think we’d like to do another album where we [build the songs out of improvisation]. All of us play in a lot of different types of projects. John has a lot of different sides and different projects. For us, it is really just great to play behind John.

JS: We have been playing different covers [including some Bob Marley songs]—we have been playing free and they turn into songs. The great thing about these guys and me is that we can actually play spontaneous music that sounds good. It is really hard to find people who do that. These guys and myself have really worked on that from a different angle from any other bands in the jamband worlds. All we have to do is talk about a thing—say something like, “lets do this song”—and we know it is allowed to go into whatever—or not.

JM: Even the songs we have all recorded have changed a lot since we recorded them. That’s why we put out a live album…

CW: It is called In Case The World Changes Its Mind, which came out the year before last.

JM: [On that album] we got to go back and revisit a bunch of these songs which are really different from the record. We really got to open up the playing and expand on these songs. Every time we get together with John it is really different. Those songs are designed as launching pads and it really doesn’t matter if we play a tune we record 15 years ago on A Go Go. It is going to be really different when we play it now.

JS: Yeah, I noticed that when we played “Little Walter Rides Again” in Ft. Lauderdale [on January 6] I forgot how we end the song. But it was cool because we got into some different stuff. We had a set format but thank God I forgot that. Also, we played “Scarlet Begonias,” the Grateful Dead song, because John and I were playing with Phil Lesh [this fall]. We totally demolished it!

Speaking of your recent collaboration with Phil, can you talk about your experience playing with Phil at Terrapin Crossroads?

JS: Phil likes us because we are good players and because we can improvise and that’s what we really do. The other guys in that band like Warren Haynes—he is a great singer and great guitar player—but I think Phil likes the way John and I improvise as well as the fact that we can play those songs. He is really interested in improvisation.

JM: We had to learn 42 songs for the run and there were only a few that I really knew before the rehearsals.

JS: The thing is with those Dead tunes, they are easy tunes but four minutes into it they do the song with two different chords. The Dead remember that when they play but, for us, we really had to rehearse to learn over 40 songs for four days.

CW: They are not difficult songs to play, just difficult to remember.

JS: Also, there are so many different versions of the songs. Phil would go, “that is the version of the song we did in ’83 or whatever—we don’t do it like that anymore” and we’d have to relearn the thing.

CW: Did you sing at those shows John, I heard something about that?

BM: It was Warren, actually, but there was a rumor they sang “Fire on the Mountain.”

JM: We kind of just sang along and mouthed the words. Thankfully, they didn’t let us sing. [Laughter.]

John Scofield, you attended the Grateful Dead’s first-ever New York City show at Tompkins Square Park way back in 1967. What were your initial impressions of that show?

JS: I remember seeing these guys with long hair and going, “How did they grow that long hair?” They had hair down to their backs and I thought, “How did they grow their hair that long?” Because I thought long hair was only invented 8 months earlier!

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