Personnel: Warren Haynes (guitar); Dr. Dan Matrazzo (keyboards); Matt Abts (drums).
Audio Mixers: Ray Martin ; Warren Haynes.
Liner Note Authors: Warren Haynes; John Scofield.
Recording information: The Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA (09/22/1999); The Roxy, Atlanta, GA (09/22/1999); The Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA (09/23/1999); The Roxy, Atlanta, GA (09/23/1999).
Photographer: Felicia Graham.
Of the many shows that Gov't Mule's faithful fans have clamored to have officially released, this is among the most deeply desired. These tapes on double disc were culled from a pair of December 1999 gigs in Georgia where the trio -- guitarist Warren Haynes, bassist Allen Woody, and drummer Matt Abts -- invited ace jazz guitarist John Scofield and keyboardist Dr. Dan Matrazzo to sit in. They were originally intended for release as a live album, but due to Woody's premature death a couple of months later, they were shelved. These shows mark the very first on-stage meetings between Scofield and Haynes, who've played together many times since. Scofield's "Hottentot" opens it all on a groove-laden tip. Abts lays down that taut snare and hi-hat with cracking breaks as the two guitarists state the theme in unison. It unfolds in relaxed fashion and the frontmen really talk to each other over and through the vamp. And though it gets things cooking, it doesn't prepare the listener for the first of two versions of Wayne Shorter's "Tom Thumb," set into motion with a breezy Latin groove. It's a tad faster and looser than the composer's, but far from sloppy. Despite the stellar melodic interplay by the guitarists, this piece is a stunning showcase for Woody's bass playing. His sense of time, elastic swing, and feel was singular among rock musicians who came after Jack Bruce. Sco's solo is full of striking arpeggios while Haynes' is bluesier, edgier. Both set up wonderful chord voicings for one another throughout. Jam fans will flip for the covers of James Brown's "Doing It to Death" (which begins with a short free-form intro) on the first disc and "Pass the Peas," which opens the second. They both bring the funk hot and heavy. Roiling and ratcheting the intensity, the rhythm section really shines on both tunes and Matrazzo's organ and piano solos on the former are his best here. Haynes' title track is a vehicle for the band to dig into its love for greasy yet progressive soul-jazz. Another Woody highlight (though the guitarists are mind-melting together and separately) is the Haynes-Dickey Betts tune "Kind of Bird," a knotty showcase for the inspiration of hard bop in the development of both men and Sco. The latter swings like mad, but Haynes is easily as fluid. Both swagger and strut, adding healthy doses of blues to the syncopated rhythms. The closer is a staggering 23-minute reading of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" that weaves elements of Betts' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and searing psychedelia into its labyrinthine mix. (Mike Barnes guests as a third guitarist on the track.) Sco-Mule is high-flying musical collaboration at its very best. Inspired, in the cut, wildly creative, and sprawling, this is the evidence that these cats brought everything to the stage in these shows. ~ Thom Jurek