Friday, July 16, 2004

John Scofield 'EnRoute'

John Scofield Trio: Live -- EnRoute (Verve).In the past several years, John Scofield has zigzagged between funky forays such as 2002's Überjam and last year's all-star post-bop summit Oh!, reaching out to new audiences with the former and continuing to create challenging jazz with the latter. With EnRoute, a live session recorded at New York City's Blue Note nightclub, the distinctive guitarist is heard at his very best: onstage with a rhythm section that does considerably more than keep time.Scofield is joined by longtime associates Steve Swallow on bass and Bill Stewart on drums, and the results are nothing less than magic. The opening track sets the tone, as the threesome digs into Denzil Best's Wee. The guitarist dances exuberantly atop slinky bass figures and cymbal splashes.With this team behind him, Scofield unleashes the biting tones and coloristic but never overused effects that make his style identifiable from note one. Lyrical and easy-flowing original compositions such as Toogs, Hammock Soliloquy and It Is Written showcase the guitarist's bright and engaging melodies at the core of these extended group improvisations.Although the trio obviously enjoys traveling fast -- especially on the breakneck, space-age bebop of Swallow's Name That Tune -- they cool out on an exquisite read of the Bacharach-David ballad Alfie.EnRoute concludes with the joyous Over the Big Top, perhaps the most jam-band-like tune here, but the lengthy groove never falls into overindulgence thanks to the brilliant interplay between Scofield and Stewart. That creative group dynamic marks EnRoute as one of the guitarist's most satisfying recordings. -- Bob Weinberg


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