Every few years a rumor surfaces contending that, in 1970, Jimi Hendrix was about to join Emerson, Lake, and Palmer to form a supergroup called HELP. While somewhat apocryphal, the story of a guitar innovator like Hendrix joining up with the foremost progressive rock keyboard trio is a compelling legend. Almost 45 years later a group of similar musical stature has come together, regrettably to little fanfare so far.
Medeski, Martin, and Wood have been slowly developing their own legendary status as an outsize-jazz influenced jam-oriented keyboard trio. Nels Cline has gradually evolved into one of the most versatile and highly-respected avant-jazz guitarists of our time. The merger of these talents is nothing short of what would be expected – some very creative noisemaking.
Opening the album is Doors of Deception, a short noodling interlude, then Bonjour Beze, a more structured jam with Martin and Wood laying down active rhythm tracks, while Medeski and Cline contribute raucous improv on top. The 14-minute Les Blank takes things in another direction with more melodic duels from Medeski and Cline on a track that would fit in on a fusion or prog-rock album. Looters features a boiling, ambient atmosphere, morphing into a free-improv session.
The Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 was recorded last August in front of a live audience, and the quartet wasn’t afraid to stretch out and take their time through the set. One can only imagine what this group could do in the studio. A notable release.