John Scofield: A Moment’s Peace

It’s a unique pleasure to follow John Scofield’s recording career in recent years. He deliberately makes an effort not to repeat himself and consciously attempts to try new things. So a traditional jazz album (Works for Me) leads to a tribute to Ray Charles (That’s What I Say) which is in turn followed by a (second studio) collaboration with Medeski Martin & Wood (Out Louder).
A Moment’s Peace is also distinct entry in the famed guitarist’s discography too and not just because of it’s concept–an album of ballads. This is far removed from anything that might be considered easy listening music because Scofield and his extraordinary partners–Scott Colley on bass, Brian Blade on drums and frequent partner Larry Goldings on keyboards–move deeply inside this material. This quartet improvises with detail and all the while exercise remarkable restraint.

So, in hearing tracks like Scofield’s own “Simply Put,” each player displays an impeccably light touch on his respective instrument as he passes at the forefront of the arrangement, playing variations on the circular pattern the leader establishes at the outset of the cut. Goldings has the longest interval, but his passage on piano reflects the song’s title with two descending movements down the ivories, after Blade and Colley each ease to the spotlight right at the change of the chords.

Within deeply felt connections to the material, there is never a moment on this album when the players sound tied to the tunes. They are, rather, immersed in the music of the moment, a skill less learned than purely intuitive, which also happens to be characteristic of individuals who know how to function as part of a group without losing their own personalities.

Carla Bley’s “Lawns” is a noteworthy example of the way John Scofield has learned to make fine albums as a producer as much as a musician. The prominence of the Hammond organ brings a whole new set of textures out of the group, as the foursome( Blade most prominently), accelerates the pace ever so slightly, playing with just a bit more emphasis,  suiting the material and the arrangement.  It’s an exquisite instance too of Sco’s inimitable style on his instrument, as his biting semi-staccato attack, so reminiscent of the blues, nevertheless retains the fluidity of jazz guitar. John Scofield proves gentleness does not preclude authority.

With tunes from The Beatles (McCartney’s “I Will”) residing comfortably next to standards of a different era ("I Loves You Porgy"), the array of songs matches the versatility of the musicians involved. Deserving an audience beyond that of the genre itself A Moment’s Peace is a seamless piece of contemporary jazz that that never betrays an unnecessary compromise to broaden its appeal.

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