Though he doesn’t have the marquee value of a Pat Metheny,
or the hipster cache of a Bill Frisell, John Scofield is easily one of the most
consistently engaging guitar players in the world of jazz. Whether playing
straight-ahead or fusion, whether working with a small group or a bigger band,
whether paying tribute to other genres or writing finely detailed compositions
of his own, Scofield has spent the last three decades honing his skills and
creating terrific music.
Scofield first came to most people’s attention during the
early ‘80s, when he spent a few years as a member of Miles Davis’ group. He
hasn’t changed his sound much since then; Scofield has always been much more
about using his fingers on the strings more than his feet on effects pedals.
Armed with a darkly rumbling tone which sounds warmer on the high strings and
downright nasty on the low, Scofield has been able to find his space in dozens
of recordings both as a leader and a sideman.
For A Moment’s Peace,
Scofield assembled a beautifully sympathetic quartet. Larry Goldings, whose
terrific albums as a leader haven’t attracted nearly enough attention, and who
has worked as a sideman with the likes of James Taylor, Solomon Burke, and De
La Soul, contributes cordially inviting organ and impressionistic piano. One of
the most solid and under-rated bassists, Scott Colley, holds down the bottom
end and contributes a couple of gorgeously melodic solos. The drums are manned
by one of the most inventive stylists of the last twenty years, Brian Blade.
In recent years, Scofield has been prone to thematic album
releases, with a Ray Charles tribute, and a New Orleans Gospel record among his
best career records. A Moment’s Peace continues
this trend, but with a less obvious spin. The 64 minutes of this album are
relatively peaceful moments, though none are soporific. Scofield finds ways to
explore ballads without sticking to the obvious, tried and true methods of jazz
artists before him.
Five Scofield originals are mixed with seven well chosen
covers from divergent sources. The Beatles “I Will,” which has received plenty
of bluegrass attention over the years, fits snugly into an exquisite jazz
arrangement. Carla Bley’s “Lawns” is equally beautiful, but with slightly more
power built into its deceptively simple core. “Throw It Away,” written by Abbey
Lincoln, and “I Want To Talk About You,” from the Billy Eckstine songbook, are
two songs most often heard as vocal jazz pieces; Scofield and Goldings in
particular have their ways with the delicious chord changes and inviting
melodies of these two. Both hint at the richness of life experiences which
makes the peace of these ballads more earned than simply handed out.
Scofield’s own “Johan” is among the strongest compositions
he’s ever written, a tune with heart, complexity, and melodic richness which is
extraordinarily memorable. “Simply Put” and “Already September” are nearly as
good, too. The album ends with Gerswhin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” given a
decidedly modern and wrenching treatment, with Golding’s organ and Scofield’s
guitar blurring together at times.
From beginning to end, A
Moment’s Peace is simply exquisite. John Scofield and the rest of the
quartet consistently combine power, dexterity, beauty, and melody to create a
jazz record close to perfection.
“Johan,” “Throw It Away,” “Lawns.” STEVE PICK