Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis & Shirley Scott: Bacalao (2003)
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Shirley Scott traffic in music that comes from the gut as much as the intellect. It strikes with a visceral force, but retains an artistic edge. Their prolific output for Prestige, while stylistically interchangeable in some cases, still held true to the distinct vernaculars of blues and jazz improvisation. This date proves no exception and adds an agile two-man Latin percussion team to the already explosive formula. The rhythmic diversity of Barretto and Perez pulls the band in intriguing directions while maintaining an infectious foot-stomping groove in the bargain.
But there’s also a subtle subversiveness at work, particularly in the playing of Davis, whose hard-bitten tone and odd, economical phrasing contrasts sharply with more loquacious saxophonists of the day. On the initial rundown of “Last Train From Overbrook” he slides lubriciously through the changes, spouting emotion to spare, but always keeping his phrases terse and to the point. The percolating beats of palmed skins weave with Duvivier’s steady bass throb, freeing up Scott rhythmically to focus on a swirling exploration of the melody.
A strolling bass line sets the mood on “Sometimes I’m Happy,” as Davis blows throaty notes and the percussionists’ polyrhythms flank his lusty horn lines with a feverish rhythm. Scott comps through the first several choruses before stretching out for her own say. Trailing bright ribbons of pedal sustain, her improvisation draws liberally from the blues before the saxophonist returns for a final summation. Barretto and Perez move to the fore on the bustling invocation of “That Old Black Magic” and Scott flips the roller rink switches for a whistling flute tone on the keys. Davis skates in over the brisk tempo at a contrastingly relaxed pace, refusing to be rushed by his partners’ shared ardor.
“Dobbin’ With Redd Foxx” is an odd one. Dedicated to the ribald comedian, it’s a surprisingly somber affair advanced on another tumbling rhythm and simple blues-saturated structure. Davis digs into theme with customary frugality, spinning off forthright, velvet-lined phrases above a backdrop of shuffling drums and whirring organ fills.
“Dansero” deposits the band behind Latin borders and allows the percussionists to expand their palette from skins to cowbell and timbales. Davis once again affects a leisurely pose at the front and Scott’s warmly glowing chords support him all the way. As proof of their shared confidence, neither musician ever really ever bowed or answered to critics, content instead to craft populist sounds to please the crowds. Such sounds abound on Bacalao, and any listener with a sweet tooth for passionately played jazz should consider indulging in the feast.
Prestige on the web: http://www.fantasyjazz.com
Track Listing: Last Train From Overbrook/ Sometimes I