New York's idyllic Hudson River Valley has been a rich source of inspiration for many millennia, from its rich sacred and artistic native American heritage, to the rise of the 19th century Hudson River School (America's first recognizable non-native school of art) to the folk and rock movement that led to the era-defining Woodstock Festival of 1969, to Pete Seeger's Clearwater movement and the burgeoning locavore movement with its craft wineries, breweries and wide spread indie arts and craft scene the area is home to more artists per-capita than any other area in the country, including New York City. Now, the next chapter in that remarkable history arrives in the form of Hudson, an awe-inspiring new collective that brings together four of the world's most influential jazz musicians who are writing a new chapter in the marriage of jazz and rock which began with Miles Davis in the 1970s.
On their own, drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Larry Grenadier, keyboardist/organist John Medeski and guitarist John Scofield can each boast careers that are stunning in their diversity and reach, building impressive audiences across a wide range of genres and styles from jazz to rock and beyond. Together they comprise the rare supergroup worthy of the name. What's brought them together is not just their similarly adventurous and virtuosic music, but a shared love for the scenery and spirit of the Hudson River Valley, which all four call home.
The group's extraordinary self-titled debut, Hudson (out June 9 via Motéma Music), strikingly captures the atmosphere and beauty of the region while celebrating the extraordinary music that has emerged from it. Mixing original music with thrilling renditions of world-famous songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and The Band's Robbie Robertson, Hudson has created an album as spectacular and breathtaking as the Hudson Valley itself.
The prolific foursome first came together in 2014 at the Woodstock Jazz Festival. The collective immediately recognized their electrifying chemistry and agreed that the project needed to continue. Not that most were strangers to one another: DeJohnette and Scofield first played together nearly four decades ago and have since combined forces in their co-led Trio Beyond as well as in Herbie Hancock's ground breaking New Standards ensemble. Guitar-master Scofield, equally adept at soulful jazz and R&B has recorded four albums with Medeski Martin & Wood, the trio known for melding the jazz and jam band worlds, while Grenadier has played with all three in different contexts. Adding to the fun, they spend this year celebrating the 75th birthday of NEA Jazz Master and GRAMMY®-winner DeJohnette.
Just a two hour drive but a world away, the Hudson Valley has long provided a retreat for those looking to maintain a lifeline to Manhattan's vibrant metropolis but a lifestyle apart from its frenetic pace, its combination of scenic splendor and easy access to the city's cultural hub making it an ideal source of respite and inspiration for artists. "All of us built our careers in the city and then moved out to the Hudson Valley to raise our kids and have a home," Scofield says, who is coming off consecutive GRAMMY® Award wins in 2016 and 17. "One thing that we all have in common is that although we're urban musicians, we left the city to live in nature."
DeJohnette moved to the Valley in the early '70s, enticed by members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who pulled up stakes not long after while DeJohnette stayed. Relative newcomers Medeski and Grenadier both made the move in the early 2000s. "A lot of creative energy was going on up here at that time," DeJohnette says of his early days. "I got a chance to get to know all the members of The Band and was a big fan of their music. Their tunes take me back to when I was a kid coming up in Chicago and listening to all kinds of music. There's a lot of cultural history in that music."
"This area has been a place for musicians to come to retreat," Medeski says. "There's performing, but there's also writing and practicing and growing and going deeper. Traditionally people have come to this environment to search and grow. To woodshed."
Grenadier concurs with the idea of the valley as a place not to play so much as to recharge and absorb the lessons learned on stages elsewhere. "People seem to come up here to have some quiet and soak up everything that they've taken in from living in the city and touring," he says. "The atmosphere that Jack described in the '70s still exists, in that there's a real cultural awareness and creative energy that exists in all aspects of life around here, so I think it attracts the artistic spirit."
Hudson conjures that spirit in a variety of stirring ways, from the blues-reggae feel of Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" to the meditative vibe of Mitchell's "Woodstock" to the New Orleans swing of The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek." Hudson's originals cover territory including the electric abstract organic funk of their collectively improvised namesake track, the simmering, Latin-accented groove of Sco's "El Swing," and the defiant "Dirty Ground," featuring DeJohnette's moving, earthy vocals. The closer, "Great Spirit Peace Chant," pays tribute to the Native American tribes that were the first to settle the area, with the whole band joining in with chants, percussion and wood flutes.
The album was recorded, at Scott Petito's NRS Recording Studios, nestled between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River and sharing the welcoming feel of the valley's homes. "Being up here in the mountains where you have some peace and tranquility, in a small, intimate room, the spiritual bond was definitely there," DeJohnette says. "We didn't feel stressed about recording. It was relaxed, so the music comes out that way. It has spirit and intensity and presence, but it also has a calm as well."
Pastoral yet exhilarating, gorgeous yet thrilling, historic yet intimate, serene yet inspiring: these are the elements that make the Hudson Valley an ideal destination and Hudson a landmark recording.
Hudson Tour Dates
June 8 - San Francisco Jazz Festival, San Francisco, CA
June 9 - Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA
June 10 - Playboy Jazz Festival, Los Angeles, CA
June 11 - Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado
June 18 - Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Pittsburgh, PA
June 24 - Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa, ON
June 25 - Saratoga Jazz Festival, Saratoga, NY
June 29 - Toronto Jazz Festival, Toronto, ON
June 30 - Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreal, QC
August 6 - Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI
October 4 - Bardavon 1869 Opera House, Poughkeepsie, NY
October 6-7 - Rose Theater @ Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York, NY
October 8 - Berklee Performing Arts Center, Boston, MA
October 14 - Sheldon Arts Center, St. Louis, MO
October 15 - Yardley Hall, Overland Park, KS
October 17 - Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary, AB
October 18 - Chan Centre For The Performing Arts, Vancouver, BC
October 19 - Moore Theater, Seattle, WA
October 21 - Mondavi Center, Davis, CA
October 22 - The Green Music Center, Rohnert Park, CA
October 23 - Newmark Theater, Portland, OR
October 25 - Piper Theatre, Mesa, AZ
October 26 - Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe, NM