It was inevitable. Guitarist John Scofield has, for the past decade, alternated regularly between albums aimed at the groove-centric (and broader) demographic he first captured with A Go Go (Verve, 1998) and discs appealing to a more committed jazz audience. Scofield has always represented a unique combination of advanced harmony, allowing him to seamlessly migrate between playing "in" and "out," visceral funk and blues concerns. The "This" and "That" music, referred to in the title This Meets That, is even more broad-reaching than usual, but Scofield has finally assimilated his multiplicity of musical interests, making this one of the best records of his career.
It's the same core trio from EnRoute (Verve, 2004)bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewartbut it couldn't sound more different. With the addition of a four-piece horn section and material ranging from swing to funk and free territory to country (with a bit of altered rock and roll thrown in), Scofield has never sounded more divergent yet, curiously, more himself. Swallow and Stewart have always been known for their individual musical breadth and abilities to combine firm pulse and telepathic interaction with whomever they're playing, but here, they make as perfect a team with Scofield as can be imagined.
Scofield's tone ranges from the clean warmth that dominated most of EnRoute to the grittier tone of albums like That's What I Say (Verve, 2005). And while it doesn't overwhelm the disc, some of the processing that he began using with his Uberjam band on albums including Up All Night (Verve, 2003) can be heard as well, most notably on his solo intro to the Celtic/Americana-infused "Down D." He applies a little wah-wah envelope filter to the funky Second Line-tinged "Heck of a Job," where the horns both broaden harmonically and punctuate.
Scofield has scored for horns before, but on the comfortably swinging "Strangeness in the Night" the four horns sound more like a big band, while taking "Down D" to harmonic territory that can only be described as "Sco." A trio version of the country classic "Behind Closed Doors," plays it straight at the outset, but Scofield ultimately makes it his own with a lyrical, behind-the-beat solo.
Scofield revisits "Pretty Out," from his collaboration with Bill Frisell, Grace Under Pressure (Blue Note, 1992), but this time it's even farther out, with a free-time middle section featuring open-ended solos by both Sco and Stewart. Frisell returns for a guest appearance on an up-tempo remake of the classic "House of the Rising Sun," avoiding shtick with a new bridge section and significant reharmonization that's reverent yet distinctive.
Scofield comes closer to that shtick with his rocking version of The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," but just when it seems that there's little to be done, he injects some beautiful close-voicings on guitar that are matched in slight dissonance by the horns, making it a perfect closer to an album where, indeed, This Meets That.
Personnel: John Scofield: guitar; Steve Swallow: bass; Bill Stewart: drums; Roger Rosenberg: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Lawrence Feldman: tenor saxophone, flutes; Jim Pugh: trombone; John Swana: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Frisell: tremolo guitar (6).