I have to be honest and say I was a little apprehensive when I was given the opportunity to review this album. Although a lover of the guitar I had the preconception that this album would be full of smooth repetitive shreds and overshadow the accompanied musicians.
I am not sure where this demon thought came from, and how wrong was I as I lowered my head in shame, anchored to the speakers bobbing my head.
The artist in question is guitar virtuoso, John Scofield who is 66 years young. And that is a good reason to celebrate, by releasing an album. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll!
While Physicist and accomplished bongo player, Richard Feynman was recruiting for scientist much more academically qualified than himself, he would ask potential candidates to explain their field of expertise in simple terms as if explaining it to a child. If they could not achieve this simple exercise, they lost his attention. John Scofield's explanation of jazz to the masses is clear, crisp and simple. He gets my attention every time.
John Scofield often referred to as ‘Sco' is relentless in his pursuit of quality and challenging music which spans many genres including funk, blues, rock, soul and jazz. His pedigree is uncontested having worked with acclaimed artists such as Miles Davis, Billy Cobham and Charles Mingus.
Writing this, I feel as though I have missed out on some amazing gigs. However, I am looking forward to his UK appearance in 2019.
‘Sco’ states in the press pack “Guitar and keyboard are not always the easiest to match. Because of its percussive nature, the piano is very similar to the guitar…” nonetheless his performance is flawless and sturdy.
Listening to the track Icons at the Fair, pianist Gerald Clayton noodles with ease amongst the backdrop of Bill Stewart's shuffling high-hat and brush of the snare drum. ‘Sco’ underpins this track with a melodic groove on his trusted 1981 Ibanez AS-200 guitar, and Clayton is so skilled, he reminds me of Tommy Flanagan on the piano when he played the solo for John Coltrane's’ Giant Steps.
Can’t Dance is a ‘foot-tapper’ for sure, with a straight-four-beat time signature seamlessly shifting to a three-quarter timing. The change of signatures and careful placement of the middle 8 keeps this tune punchy, dynamic and fresh. Keeping the music structures basic. If you like Dr. Lonnie Smith, you will love this.
Now, one of my favourites on this fine album has to be New Waltzo. A clever fusion of smooth jazz and rock. The intro is an exciting helter-skelter ride that is twirling and exhilarating. When you listen to the nuances of each instrument and in particular Gerald Clayton, the groove is rich in texture. This track has some of the most accomplished drumming skills heard in recent times. Syncopated? poly-signature? Call it what you want. Bill Stewart’s artistry is on point!
‘Sco’ has appeared on more than 50 albums with nearly 600 credits to his name he certainly is a living legend. And what better way to celebrate this wonderful occasion for his 66th earth-strong-day than releasing Combo 66.
In summary, this is a first-class production, and fair play to Sco he has utilised a variety of melodies while keeping to fairly simple sounding structures.
This album will get you out of bed.
John Scofield - Guitar
Gerald Clayton - Piano
Vicente Archer - Bass
Bill Stewart - Drums