873

John Scofield: Piety Street

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Over the course of his four-decade career, guitarist John Scofield has maintained a successful dual career that alternates purer jazz with projects that skirt its edges and are aimed at a larger demographic. Not that there's anything wrong with that. His That's What I Say: John Scofield Plays The Music of Ray Charles (Verve, 2005) garnered critical and popular acclaim, keeping him on the road for the better part of a year, including a stellar performance in Gatineau, Quebec, near Ottawa, Canada, in October, 2005. After the exciting and stylistically assimilative This Meets That (EmArcy, 2007), Scofield turns to the blues/gospel-inflected Piety Street, a diversion for him, that's absolutely credible—and, in many ways, inevitable.



Scofield's blues roots have never sounded this good. With the rock-solid support of bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Ricky Fataar, the album grooves with a comfortable, in-the-pocket vibe ranging from the buoyant "That's Enough," with Jon Cleary's wonderfully supportive piano work, to the ambling groove of the substantially rearranged "Motherless Child," one of vocalist John Boutte's best performances. The up-tempo "It's a Big Army" evokes images of deep south churches, with an entire congregation taken up by the sheer joy of the music, while the funky "His Eye is on the Sparrow" is driven by Fataar's visceral, behind-the-beat pulse. "Ship of Zion" is a slow, simmering blues that features a lengthy opening solo from Scofield filled with nuanced bends and gritty, Wes Montgomery-style octave work.



Scofield's playing may be, by necessity, more on the inside here, though he does take a few opportunities to create the kind of inside/outside tension-and-release that only he can, with his bop-inflected solo on "Motherless Child" a definitive performance that proves it's possible to cross-pollinate without losing the essence of the music. Jazz is a stylistic melting pot that, at it's best, dissolves borders and makes it possible to apply more sophisticated harmonies to even the simplest of changes. It's what makes Scofield's playing on Piety Street so captivating. He clearly knows the roots of the music and respects it; but equally he stretches it ever so slightly, so that he never loses sight of his own distinctive personality. This may be a blues/gospel album, but it's played by a group capable of more adventurous music, and there's little doubt that this music will open up even further in performance, just as Scofield's Ray Charles tribute did.



A cross-over album, to be sure, but Piety Street fits comfortably into Scofield's broad and growing discography. For a guitarist who has meshed with the jamband scene, Norwegian Nu Jazz and R&B while remaining committed to more exploratory music, Piety Street is a logical and inevitable project. Sco's roots are as much in blues and funk as they are in jazz, and here he's delivered music as fun as it is substantial. Piety Street will appeal to the jazz contingent as much as it does those for whom it is their first encounter with this remarkable guitarist.


Track Listing: That's Enough; Motherless Child; It's a Big Army; His Eye Is on the Sparrow; Something's Got a Hold on Me; The Old Ship of Zion; Ninety Nine and a Half; Just a Little While to Stay Here; Never Turn Back; Walk With Me; But I Like the Message; The Angel of Death; I'll Fly Away.

Personnel: John Scofield: guitar; Jon Cleary: piano, keyboard, vocals; George Porter Jr.: bass; Ricky Fataar: drums; John Boutte: vocals; Shannon Powell: percussion.

Title: Piety Street | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: EmArcy


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Cómo Desaparecer Completamente (How to Disappear Completely)" CD/LP/Track Review Cómo Desaparecer Completamente (How to Disappear...
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 11, 2016
Read "Do Not Go Gently" CD/LP/Track Review Do Not Go Gently
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations" CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "DICE" CD/LP/Track Review DICE
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 11, 2017
Read "A Woman's Work..." CD/LP/Track Review A Woman's Work...
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 30, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.