Guitarist John Stowell's liner notes to this recently released CD makes Scenes
sound almost serendipitous. He writes that "I suggested that we make a little music and turn on the tapes if we liked the chemistry...We did a couple of gigs in Seattle and went into the studio for a couple of sessions."
Stowell and drummer John Bishop produced the two sessions recorded at Seattle's Ironwood Studios. They showcase the quartet's very democratic approach on a repertoire including Tom Harrell's "Scene," McCoy Tyner's "Blues On The Corner," Tom Odonnell's "Psalm," John Scofield's "The Beatles," Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti," and Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" as well as originals by saxophonist Rick Mandyck and bassist Jeff Johnson.
Mandyck's "New Beginnings" kicks-off Scenes with a fluid, four-way conversation driven by Bishop and Johnson's supple support and Stowell's propulsive chordal colors. Mandyck and Stowell each contribute well-shaped solos, but it is the band's interplay that is most impressive on this and subsequent cuts. They are all masterful players and even better listeners.
Their version of "Scene" is an introspective gem featuring one of Johnson's loveliest solos-he contributes several on this recording. The title track also offers a succinct, breathy statement from Mandyck, and another of Stowell's beautifully crafted abstractions. "Blues On The Corner" swings with a juicy, jaunty swagger; Mandyck and Stowell finishing each other's musical thoughts with spookily intuitive insight. Stowell produces a playful weave of single note runs followed by Johnson's equally mathematical bass braid, and Bishop adds a tasty series of drum pyrotechnics punctuated by Stowell's guitar before returning to Tyner's bluesy theme.
"Psalm" is another collective beauty grounded by Johnson and Bishop's sensuous rhythmic pulse, but the band's four-sided fun really gets loose on "The Beatles." It's a rubbery, soulful blast, as is the quartet's version of "Nefertiti." Their approach to Shorter's chord changes is another collective triumph from a band that knows how to play with silence and with each other. Check it out.
Personnel: Rick Mandyck (sax); John Stowell (guitars); Jeff Johnson (bass); John Bishop (drums)