He's had a multifaceted career in almost every imaginable area of jazznot to mention working as a gun for hire on albums by singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Carole King. It's easy to forget that saxophonist Tom Scott actually started out as a jazz traditionalist. While his own albums have leaned more towards fusion and contemporary jazz, the early days of his career found Scott cutting his teeth on albums by Oliver Nelson, Don Ellis and Thelonious Monk.
So when one assesses his career as a leader, it's important to consider that it's been all about choice. Clearly Scott has the background and chops to work within the jazz mainstream; he has simply chosen not to.
Until now. Scott returns to his roots on Bebop United, which intersperses his originals with less-often recorded but worthwhile material by Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and Cannonball Adderley. Culled from live performances at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, it's the kind of straight-ahead set where the only thing more fun than listening to it on disc would have been to hear it in the audience. The vibe is upbeat, the performances inspired. And while there's nothing particularly forward-reaching about the disc, at the end of the day it's just plain fun to listen to.
For these May, 2002 performances Scott put together a multi-generational septet featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, trombonist Jay Ashby, pianist Gil Goldstein, bassist Duane Burno and drummer Willie Greenall flexible players equally credible in this more traditional setting. As if that weren't enough, Scott also enlisted septuagenarian Phil Woods to sit in on a brightly swinging reading of Corea's "Tones for Jones Bones, as well as two Scott originalsthe romantic ballad "Silhouettes and "Close View," which may be rooted in the blues but features a complicated theme so convoluted as to make even these clearly accomplished players break out in a sweat.
It's hard to pick out highlights or focus on any specific player, but Goldstein deserves special note if for no other reason than the fact that his career has been marked by diversity perhaps even greater than Scott's. And yet, in this bop-based setting, he's not only an astute accompanist whose work may be understated, but always manages to make the soloist sound somehow better. He's also a soloist capable of revering tradition without losing his contemporary edge, as he does on the boogie woogie of Cannonball Adderley's "Sack 'O Woe.
Within the purview of this mainstream set, Scott manages to bring together lessons learned from his decades of experience in a multitude of styles, all the while sounding unfailingly authentic. This is no mere dabbling; this is a player who's lived it, and perhaps that's the biggest complement of all. Purists may scoff at Scott's musical choices over the years, but he hasn't returned the disrespect in kind. Instead, with Bebop United, he proves that he hasn't forgotten or abandoned his rootsnor is he ever likely to.
Personnel: Tom Scott: tenor saxophone; Ronnie Cuber: baritone saxophone; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Jay
Ashby: trombone; Gil Goldstein: piano; Duane Burno: bass; Willie Jones: drums; Phil Woods:
alto saxophone (2,3,7).