After a series of ethereal and cerebral releases earlier this year, the double-CD Saudades is a welcome change of pace for the ECM label. Not only is it a well-recorded live date, but the playing is hotter than hot (the whole world seems to prefer the adjective "blistering") and the group interplay is outstanding.
The gig was put together by Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield, who invited Larry Goldings to pay homage to Tony Williams, both in general and specifically for his work in the Lifetime band with John McLaughlin and Larry Young. All three players on this date have direct or indirect connections to Williams, so it's quite natural that they chose to work with this material. DeJohnette replaced Williams in Miles Davis' band; Scofield played with Williams on a few sessions; and Goldings acknowledges Young as a primary influence. Goldings was asked by Williams to be part of a new group he was forming, but it never happened because he passed away in 1997.
Williams was very influential in the 1970s fusion movement after he left Miles, and the first CD contains material from that time, plus original music in that style. If you are not familiar with this much-maligned era of jazz, this release may be a good introduction. If that era turns your screws, then this record will be heaven-sent. Even if fusion is not your particular favorite style, this modern interpretation might turn your head, as it did mine.
DeJohnette does not really copy Williams' drumming style, but rather goes straight for the intensity that Williams brought to the drum set since he was 17. DeJohnette is literally on fire, pushing Scofield and Golding every second of the entire concert (in an entirely different way than say, Art Blakey might) and his work here is outstanding. Both Scofield and Golding play very well, and since nine of the eleven tracks clock in at over ten minutes, there is plenty of stretching out along the way.
Saudades has much to offer lovers of drumming, as well as guitar fans who may be curious about Scofield's current direction. Organ fans who loved Larry Young's explorations will find a true accolyte in Goldings.
Put this on, crank it up, and join three musicians and their audience all having a great time.
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