I really really like guitarist John Scofield. His start with Mingus and Chet Baker, his stint with post-comeback Miles, his fusiony bands in the early 1980s and then his killer string of discs on Blue Note and Verve: great stuff.
A Go Go (with the trio Medeski, Martin, and Wood), things maybe soured a little. A bunch of his records after that seemed a little puffed up with affectation—not all of them, nope, but certainly Uberjam and its live follow-up, which seemed like lowest common denominator stuff for a guy who wasn't into coasting.
If Sco's career in the last dozen years has been up and down, then his new disc, A Moment's Peace, is up-up-up. Featuring a brilliant band (Larry Golding, Brian Blade and Scott Colley) and a wonderful mix of standards, pop songs and originals, this is a quietly daring recording.
The band’s treatment of standards is similarly quirky and strong throughout. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is given a fresh take—with Goldings playing a pulsing kind-of-reggae offbeat figure throughout. Blade’s rhythm approach, however, works somewhat against that groove, with jazz accents and melodic rolls acting like a gentle version of what Elvin Jones might have played on this kind of tune. Goldings solos memorably over the “A” sections, setting up Sco for a fluid and sharp statement on the bridge.
This is a band that is exceptional at setting a mood. Blade’s mallet work combines with Golding's piano to prepare Sco for a lovely reading of “Throw It Away”, a tune by Abbey Lincoln. Carla Bley’s “Lawns” gets a treatment that is quietly warm, with just a hint of strut in its step. And several Scofield originals are typically hard to get out of your head.
Maybe one of finest jazz records of the year, A Moment's Peace makes John Scofield seem a little less jammy and whole lot relevant and cool.