on October 12, 2007
First we had This Is This by Weather Report--generally regarded as their worst effort, although not by me. Then we had This Against That, a band put together by the formidable jazz trumpeter, Ralph Alessi. With two releases under their belt, they've managed to shake things up and establish themselves as Players To Be Reckoned With. Now, if there's even the slightest continuity of thread in the this 'n' that aesthetic, we have the finest representation of such discs.
From the first skronk-ish sounds emanating from the speakers, we're alerted to something special going on here. Sco pretty much brings out the heavy artillery: squawks, blats, wah-wah madness, demon comping, bent strings, Frisell-like heartlandish moves, Leslie effects, chordal leads, fluid Metheny-esque lines, brief flashes of heavy-metal insanity, and some purely righteous shredding. But, amazingly, it's all in context, never just showmanship, never "Look at me, I can do this and you can't," which, although true, is beside the point.
Seldom have I been so immediately and permanently blown away by a disc as I've been by this remarkable music. From a purely sonic standpoint, this has to be one of the most amazing records ever made. Working mainly within a trio context, although subtly and brilliantly augmented by a horn section, Sco manages to produce an astounding variety of sounds, moods, and sensibilities. From that standpoint alone this disc would be a must-have. But the aural adroitness only scratches the surface. There's some kind of deep ur-jazz vibe happening all over this session: infectious, heartland-drenched, Americanesque, primal yet way sophisticated, hortatory, bloozy beyond the call of duty, too cool but absolutely accessible, and just plain swingingly listenable, without the slightest touch of nostalgia.
This is the kind of session that vindicates the cultural essentiality of jazz: no other popular genre could've produced the astonishingly joyous yet entirely unself-consciously glorious music found herein.
on September 24, 2007
Sco knocks another one clear out the ballpark with "this meets that", his first 'full-bodied' jazz album in many a year (if you exclude the 'trio' and 'band' albums - all of which were excellent, by the way; and if you also exclude the 'tribute' album, which in my view is best forgotten anyway).
The basic trio is still here though, with Steve Swallow on electric bass and Bill Stewart on drums but also along for the ride are Roger Rosenberg on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Lawrence Feldman on tenor saxophone and flutes, Jim Pugh on trombone, John Swana on trumpet and flugelhorn and last but by no means least, Bill Frisell, who pops up on temolo guitar on the Traditional, "House of the Rising Sun". I couldn't wait to get this one and put it into the CD player, and it doesn't disappoint. Granted, there are no keyboards of any kind anywhere on this album (and I do like my keyboards) but I honestly don't miss them.
Apart from my obvious excitement about the music, there was one other thing that leapt out at me about this album - the fact that Scofield didn't write all the songs. I'm not sure I remember ever seeing that on a John Scofield album (apart from the aforementined 'tribute' one, perhaps). Apart from the Traditional, the album also includes the Rolling Stones tune "I Can't Get No Satisfaction", written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, and "Behind Closed Doors", which was written by Kenneth Gist.
The album is produced by Scofield though and I'm particuarly pleased to hear his guitar's got some of its trademark wail back. A solid and totally satisfying piece of work.
on September 21, 2007
From the stellar three who brought us the live *En Route*, *This Meets That* burns, burns, burns with the same focused intensity (though this is a studio recording and is augmented by picture perfect horn arrangements, [only where absolutely appropriate]).
There's history here: bassist Steve Swallow produced an earlier Scofield cd called *Grace Under Pressure* and contributed horn arrangements that fit like gloves to several tunes there (Charlie Haden played bass: haven't heard it? Fix That.) Bill Frisell played guitar on every track on *Grace*; here he guests on one ("House of the Rising Sun" at that!).
Anything Scofield, Swallow, and Bill Stewart do is worth your time and attention: but when they are in the same room together, there is a special magic. Buy it.
on December 19, 2007
John Scofield's latest starts off with an upbeat, catchy song. There's a horn section -- they play written parts and don't solo. Scofield did a lot of writing for them, though, they are always accentuating, providing counterpart, or adding color. Scofield's playing sounds, of course, like Scofield, but he sounds a little more like Bill Frisell than usual. Bill Frisell sits in on "House Of The Rising Sun", playing tremelo guitar and contributing one of the solos to the song. "Strangeness In The Night" is also upbeat, and the horns provide some of the catchiness. "Heck Of A Job" is a little funkier. "Behind Closed Doors" is more of a slow blues, it's the only song without horns. "Shoe Dog" and "Memorette" are more slow blues. "Trio Blues", unlike its name, has horns, and is a faster blues. Befitting its name, "Pretty Out" is a little further out than the rest. "Satisfaction" is a strong jazzy take on the rock song everyone's heard a million times. Scofield's playing is strong throughout, otherwise this couldn't be a 4-star CD. Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart are also, unsurprisingly, good. Some of Steve Swallow's bass solos are mixed a little for today's larger woofers.
Fans of John Scofield should get this CD, someone new to Scofield could certainly start here.
on June 5, 2008
John Scofield has gone up the ladder 1 step at a time to reach this new album. "This meets that" marks Scofield finally reaching the top of the Ladder. Yes after all these years JS is releasing a superb album. Creative, tight and extremely satisfying; choose the right moment to hear this album; probably after a long day of work; pour yourself a Glass of Whisky, sit back, listen and enjoy. Highly recommended.
on January 23, 2009
John Scofield has been on a pretty long roll. Starting with 1989's "Time on My Hands," (well, maybe starting with "Flat Out" the year before) Scofield shook off the metallic tang and coke groove of his fusion records and started articulating a more straight ahead soul-jazz vision that has proven to be one the deepest, most sustainable, fertile vehicles in the history of jazz, if you are asking me. I mean, it's been a lot of inspired albums by now, from the spectacular set of quartet sessions, most with Lovano and Bill Stewart and a bassist du jour (my favorite is "What We Do,") to the incredible "Hand Jive" with Eddie Harris and Larry Goldings, to his collaborations with Pat Metheny and with Bill Frissell--you simply can't go wrong with any of it. And it almost amazes me to say this, but "This Meets That" is quickly becoming one of my very favorites!
Scofield's secret weapon is that he is a truly gifted songwriter. Unlike Metheny and others, he has never expressed any long-form compositional ambitions (to my knowledge) but as a lithe, witty and heartbreaking melody writer, well, dude, he's Paul McCartney. Or Bill Evans. For real.
As you probably know, for the past few years he's been alternating between arty, NYC minimalist funk albums with very young sidemen drawn from the jam scene (Uber Jam, etc.) and more mainstream jazz efforts with his usual partners in crime.
This album follows up on the live trio album En Route, but it is very different in character. "En Route" was a somewhat difficult, lean jazz trio album with the pretty melodies buried under plenty of jazz abstraction--good disc, though. Sco in particular is on fire.
This Meets That is a kind of folk jazz album, blending disarmingly simple and unfailingly pretty melodies and changes with very subtle bed-style brass arrangements that often evoke Aaron Copeland and other voices of artful Americana. But the album is not without some devilish subtleties--the songs forms, while simple and folky as a rule, often grow sudden new compositional elements, entirely new "C sections" that commence after all the soloing is done--witness "Shoe Dog," or "Heck of Job." And then there's a bit of sonic experimentation, creeping over from his Jam God identity. There are also a couple of structurally twisted compositions ("Strangeness in the Night," "Pretty Out) that belie the folksiness of much of much of the album.
It's just a masterful, coherent and beautiful disc. The three covers are wonderful--Frissell's cameo is a real treat, and Scofield's playing throughout is...well, if you love him, you'll love it. IMO, he keeps getting better, "more Sco"--if there are any improvisers who rely less on schtick and more on the deep resources of a very mature voice, I am not sure who they are--the guy is bottomless, while being instantly recognizable at every note. He's my hero. Could you guess?
on January 16, 2008
Prior to hearing this album I was a fan of Scofields funkier works such as Uberjam, A Go Go, Up All night, but not his other work. This album is not like those albums ... its better. While there are some funky moments here, this album is more of mood album and has much greater depth then any other Scofield album I've listened to. For the most part the album is a tight trio (guitar, bass, drums) playing some ramblin' country blues jazz. However the trio is complimented by a horn ensemble that really add to the mood of the album. There is no horn soloing; the horn arrangements are just to add depth to the melodies (similar to the way Herbie Hancock used horns to embellish his trio in Speak like a Child). Scofield did an exellent job orchestrating the horn parts, they fit perfectly with the style of the album. Every track is great and it has a wonderful flow from start to finish. An added bonus is that Bill Frisell appears as a guest artist on track 6 (House of the Rising Sun). It is interesting to hear the differences in their soloing styles. Highly recommended for everyone ... absolutely essential for Scofield fans.
on January 14, 2008
Longboard said it best, but I'll second his eloquently phrased praise of this album. It grabbed me from the opening seconds of track 1, "The Low Road," and had me hooked thereon out. A personal highlight for me is the gentle, agrarian "Down D." (I say "agrarian" simply because it reminds me of being in the country--very evocative piece). Ralph Alessi's orchestrations are masterful and add nuance and depth to Sco's already eminently listenable trio. I must admit that I groaned inwardly a bit when I noticed the inclusion of two covers--"House of the Rising Sun" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction--but after hearing how interesting this ensemble makes them sound, I can't complain. A strong four stars for me; I have no reservations about recommending the entire album.
on July 29, 2011
I wasn't sure what to think when I first listened to this music--but that's not unusual. Some of my favorite albums didn't grab me much when I first heard them (like Radiohead's "OK Computer"). I think it took about four listens (maybe because a couple of those weren't close listens) until I felt like I got what this was about. Now that I've got it, though, I have a hard time putting it into words.
I guess part of what I like about this is the whole concept, "This Meets That," which I interpret to mean--this is not a funky groove outing like "Uberjam," nor is it a post-bop, abstract record like "Works For Me." It's neither, and it's both. This is total Sco--all the stuff that he's into, which this time he hasn't bothered to put onto separate discs. I suppose that for some people that makes this album feel incoherent, but for me, Sco's idiosyncratic playing (and the great work/play done by Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart) provides more than enough coherence. I hope he keeps working in this particular bag. I dig the horns, and the whole "abstract groove" feel.
on October 30, 2007
Once again, John Scofield creates a fresh, varied, vibrant collection of tunes. With This Meets That, Scofield has one foot in contemporary jazz, one in funk jazz, bop, rock, etc,. He is all over the place and yet never seems out of place. Just a brilliant player. Swallow and Stewart are excellent as always and compliment Sco wonderfully.