Original Release dates: “Meant To Be”, 1991; “What We Do”, 1993
Re-release dates (England): 1st August 2006
Two significant re-releases by Blue Note (England).
“Meant To Be” features just short of seventy minutes of high octane, inventive jazz in John Scofield’s own unique post bop, funk driven style that he carved out as almost its own jazz subgenre throughout the ‘nineties. Drawing on his time with Miles Davis and his own early funk/fusion based approach and bringing in post bop influences from Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman together with a heavy dose of pop sensibility, John Scofield’s music at this time is uplifting, witty, highly enjoyable and at the same time intelligent and stimulating. The production by the Don Grolnick is superb. All eleven compositions are by John Scofield. The band (John Scofield, guitar; Joe Lovano, saxophone and alto clarinet; Marc Johnson, bass; Bill Stewart; drums) is tight and perfectly balanced. John Scofield’s guitar sound (playing his trademark Ibanez AS 200 electric guitar) has the kind of reverb on it that places the sound more in the John McLaughlin tonal spectrum than the flatter sound of much jazz guitar. Joe Lovano’s sax playing is at this point emerging in its full scope and range, developing his own trademark developments beyond the Eddie Harris and Dewey Redman influences. In Bill Stewart, one of the most original and inventive drummers on the New York scene, there is drive and energy to propel this fine music (listen for example to his trademark asymmetric rhythmic patterns on “Chariots” or “French Flics”, typical of so much of his work with John Scofield and Larry Goldings). Marc Johnson carries much of the rhythmic pulse and significantly (in the absence of piano) makes space for the interplay of the remaining players. As we noted in our review of Marc Johnson’s fine recent ECM release “Shades Of Jade”, the Scofield/ Lovano/ Johnson understanding goes back at least to this early ‘nineties release. Amidst the uptempo, upbeat licks, check out “Keep Me In Mind”, an unusually aching and beautiful piece quite untypical of John Scofield’s usual approach. Very highly recommended.
“What We Do”, originally released a year after “Meant To Be”, continues with the same line up, except that Marc Johnson is replaced by Dennis Irwin on bass. All the merits of the earlier album are here again in a rousing outpouring of John Scofield’s distinctive brand of post bop funk jazz. Once again, all nine of the compositions are by John Scofield; Joe Lovano is outstanding; Bill Stewart is if anything more angular and asymmetric in his drumming. Dennis Irwin keeps the pulse alive in this pianoless quartet set up and is more prominent, if perhaps somewhat more linear than Marc Johnson. Another hour of scintillating jazz full of ingenuity and interest and again, highly recommended.
The answer to the nagging track title 'Why Nogales?" may just be that Nogales, Arizona is the brith place of Charles Mingus.
(A further note on the cover art: it must have seemed like a good idea at the time to montage in sepia print photo booth shots of the band members (how did Dennis Irwin get that upright bass into the booth?); is this the most underachieving jazz album cover ever issued by a major label?)
Both of these re-releases are at a budget price.
To preview and purchase “Meant To Be” and “What We Do” at iTunes Music store:
To preview and purchase “Meant To Be” on CD at Amazon:
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To preview and purchase “What We Do” on CD at Amazon:
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Amazon John Scofield Album slideshow:
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