It’s never good to expect anything from John Scofield because he likes to throw a curve. With his latest release, he mixes great originals with surprising covers on a trio record… sort of. Steve Swallow handles the bass, Bill Stewart drums, and their rapport with Scofield is immediately evident. But there’s also a horn section that contributes greatly, but never intrusively.
“The Low Road” opens the set and showcases many great aspects, starting with a cacophony of harmonics that turns into a quiet jazz roadrace with Scofield soloing over the horns. The song has a jazz head that immediately sticks, and Scofield’s solo showcases his chops and sense of soul. “Strangeness In the Night” is slightly off-kilter, rhythmically and harmonically, going from ballad to swing tune for more than seven minutes while Scofield’s soloing plays tour guide. “Heck of a Job” has that wonderful New Orleans funk feel his music sometimes adopts. Is is a dig at the how the Katrina situation was handled?
But the real surprise here is the choice of covers, like a lovely version of the Charlie Rich classic, “Behind Closed Doors,” with an exquisite statement of the melody before Scofield’s solo mixes double-stops, single lines, and chords in a churning mix of country and jazz. Bill Frisell joins for a version of “House of the Rising Sun” done up in a stomping swing. Wrapping things up are three minutes of great, funky rock in the form of the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” with a melody mostly stated with chordal work and a solo that’s as soulful as it gets.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.