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Tom Scott and the L.A. Express: Bluestreak

Douglas Payne By

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In the 1970s, Tom Scott was pretty bankable stuff. In addition to countless pop, jazz and film sessions, he blew out one catchy little tune after another on his own albums and those with the L.A. Express. He littered the Columbia vaults with some good easy-listening pop-jazz in the '70s: Tom Cat , Blow it Out , New York Connection and (one of my faves as a teen) Street Beat. Trouble is, Scott's simple little tunes and simpleminded playing on a variety of acoustic and electric wind instruments gets mighty old awfully fast. One or two listens and you get the idea. He meandered through the 1980s with nothing much left to say and pretty much withered to seed on a variety of worthless GRP outings since then.

Scott, once a promising Coltrane disciple who soon settled on money-making music, here brings back the "L.A. Express" concept, enlisting former studio associates Robben Ford on guitar, the tremendous Joe Sample on Fender Rhodes and occasional piano, Steve Gadd on drums and Ralph MacDonald on percussion. Nothing terribly exciting happens. But it's nice to hear him throw some bayou funk into dancehall numbers like "Tom Cat" and Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up." In fact, it's the old tunes like these and "Sneakin' in the Back" and "Dirty Old Man" that are the most fun to hear, chugging with an insistent and dirty groove. While it's short on solos or invention, Bluestreak is long on pleasant, easy-going funk.

Unfortunately, when Scott leads on soprano, much of the whole affair sounds like another one of those snoozy Grover Washington Jr. albums. You can't help but wish the guy would stick to his very identifiable tenor playing. L.A. Express fans won't be disappointed with Bluestreak - and it's good to hear Tom Scott play like he means it again. But even though Robben Ford takes some nice solos, it would have been preferable to hear this team plumb the depths of the unexpected and turn up a little more juice. It doesn't mean this disc isn't worth a listen: it's a pleasant return to form for Scott. Terrible cover art, though.


Title: Bluestreak | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: GRP Records

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