Don Scott: Out of Line

John Kelman By

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Balancing the cerebral with the visceral is a challenge, especially in contemporary jazz that takes a more sophisticated approach to composition. Toronto-based guitarist Don Scott strikes a fine balance with Out of Line, a debut that combines the more oblique approach of artists like Kurt Rosenwinkel, David Binney and Dave Douglas with unshakable—albeit at times complex—grooves and a wealth of inventive soloing.

Scott has surrounded himself with a group of Toronto musicians up for the challenge. Quinsin Nachoff has emerged as one of the more intriguing woodwind players on any scene with his own improvising-trio-meets-string-quartet Magic Numbers (Songlines, 2006), and bringing his a heady but resonant intellectualism to projects including guitarist Tim Posgate's Hornband featuring Howard Johnson (Guildwood, 2005) and Ottawa bassist John Geggie's Geggie Concert Series. He demonstrates a keen edge on the opening "The WORLD Is Your Ashtray," which shifts from clean lines and a light but persistent groove to more aggressive territory, when Scott kicks in the overdrive and drives Nachoff's screaming tenor solo with an ascending pattern of metal-edged power chords.

Scott is a member of bassist Michael Herring's Vertigo group—which released Coniferous Revenge (Independent, 2006), featuring guest David Binney alongside Nachoff. Here the flexible and responsive bassist works hand-in-glove with Ottawa expat Nick Fraser, also no stranger to the Geggie Concert Series and a drummer capable of mainstream swing, unfettered free play, and anything in-between.

Even when Scott writes in shifting meters, as he does on "Holding Pattern," the music flows organically. While it's no longer a distinguishing characteristic to work naturally with irregular meters, Herring and Fraser make them feel regular, while Scott's solo weaves through the changing landscape with ease. Scott largely favors a clean, warm and full tone—less effected than players like Rosenwinkel and Pat Metheny, whose influence can be heard on the gently swaying "Sudden Valley/Precarious Contraption," although Scott's lengthy melody is more abstruse than Metheny's more singable lyricism. The second half of the tune shifts gears, with Fraser turning up the heat for another solo by Nachoff that builds with powerful inevitability.

Tradition is referenced on the title track, with a stop-start theme from Scott and Nachoff—this time on clarinet—moving in and out of a comfortable swing, but turning freer for Scott and Nachoff's solos. There's a pulse, to be sure; but Fraser and Herring play it loose and occasionally jagged beneath solos that demonstrate an admirable appreciation for space and dynamics.

"Bubble Cakes" swings more decidedly, while the quirky but balladic "Amasa," features a rare but thematically poised solo from Herring. Scott's arpeggios help define the episodic closer, " Failed Shelving Unit With STUPID Stuck Chainsaw And Applesauce," but that's only the beginning as it navigates its way to a strong ending to an album reflective of its stylistic precedents as Out of Line speaks with a voice distinctive enough to make it a recommended debut from a guitarist from whom more, no doubt, will be heard.

Track Listing: The WORLD Is Your Ashtray; Holding Pattern; Sudden Valley/Precarious Contraption; Out Of Line; What Are The Factors?; BUBBLE Cakes; Amasa; Achilla; Transformation; Failed Shelving Unit With STUPID Stuck Chainsaw And Applesauce.

Personnel: Don Scott: guitar; Quinsin Nachoff: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Michael Herring: bass; Nick Fraser: drums.

Title: Out of Line | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Self Produced


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