JAZZ SPOTLIGHT : John Scofield’s Brainy Blues
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In Scofield’s first band recording since saxman Joe Lovano left his employ last year, the guitarist presents his new quartet and re-explores the brainy, appealing blues-R&B; turf he called home on several albums in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
With bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Bill Stewart still on hand, and Larry Goldings (on both piano and organ) replacing Lovano, Scofield has a flexible unit that can be muscular one moment, blues-soaked the next, and gutsy yet highbrow the next.
Again, it’s the leader’s array of sounds that grab our ears. He can offer honey-colored moans, as on “Checkered Past,” which is oozingly slow, and he can deliver charged notes that seem to cause sparks to spray from his amp, as on “I’ll Take Les.” Stringing these notes together into chains, he tells stories that at times have a riveting urgency and at others convey a warming calm.
Rhythms ramble from chunky back-beats to undulating New Orleans’ second-line funk, set in motion by Stewart and Irwin. On several cuts, saxman Eddie Harris is on board, his high-pitched tone fitting just-so with Scofield’s, and his solos bristling with a laid-back bite.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).