Saxophonist Tom Scott and pianist Roger Kellaway have enough credits between them to fill a book. Scott has scored dozens of movies, stretching from “Stir Crazy” to “Shakes the Clown"; Kellaway has had a musical influence on the careers of artists as diverse as Bobby Darin, Lena Horne and Barbra Streisand.
Both of these versatile artists also have had substantial careers as improvising jazz players. Scott reportedly has performed on more than 500 recordings. Kellaway has an equally impressive jazz resume, including gigs with Don Ellis, Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, et al.
On Thursday all those skills were on full display in their rare pairing in a straight-ahead jazz setting at the Vic in Santa Monica. Appearing with bassist Jeff D’Angelo, drummer Nate Wood and guitarist Robben Ford, Scott and Kellaway -- who first recorded together in the late ‘70s -- were clearly enjoying themselves, tossing verbal repartee back and forth between numbers, urging each other forward musically in every number.
The selections reached from a pair of brightly swinging Kellaway originals to Nat Adderley’s “Sack O’ Woe,” an off-center version of “Stella by Starlight” and a take-no-prisoners romp through Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time.” Scott was particularly impressive on alto saxophone, an instrument that seemed to offer a more authentic expression of his musical heart than his tenor saxophone work. Kellaway was a wizard, each of his solos a transformative reshaping of the material.
Ford added his familiar affection for the blues to the mix, and D’Angelo and Wood laid down a sturdy rhythmic foundation. But the night belonged to Scott and Kellaway, playing with the sort of inventive spirit that made one wonder what they might have done (and might still do) if their focus remained on jazz 24/7.