To say that guitarist Andrew Scott's new CD, The Brightest Minute, leans backward as much as it does forward isn't a slam, it's a compliment. It's always a pleasure to hear a musician who salutes the prowess of his predecessorsin this case, masters like Billy Bauer, Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Jim Hall and othersand uses it as a springboard for his own musical reconnaissance.
Scott's engaging quartet date consists of eight of his original compositions, presumably based on themes from the Great American Songbook. Even though each one is well disguised, musicians who are familiar with chord changes should be able to identify the genesis of most if not all of them. Part of the fun in listening is trying to figure that out. An even larger part is listening to how seamlessly Scott and his teammates (pianist Jake Wilkinson, bassist Jon Meyer, drummer Jeff Halischuk) pool their singular talents to advance the collective cause. There is no self-importance here, only four gentlemen making pleasant music together.
Much of that music is buoyant, starting with "My Ears Can't Hear Your Voice," a mid-tempo charmer that sounds a lot to some ears like "Out of Nowhere" (only a guess, as is the appraisal of the free-flowing "Safe," reminiscent of the standard "Indiana"). The tempo accelerates on "Ain't It So" ("Love Me or Leave Me"?), then slows on the ballad "For Marilyn." Each of them epitomizes Scott's impressive ability to take an already lovely song and amplify its natural charm by using his avid imagination. The same holds true for the themes that follow: "The Brightest Minute," "Moody Blues," "Dreamin,'" "For Matt and Kate," all of whose chords ring familiar to these relatively unschooled ears without bringing to mind specific tunes.
Be that as it may, what matters even more than what is being played is how well it is being played, which in this case is quite well indeed. Scott's guitar is bright and mellowa nod to the lyrical past before electronics reared its ugly headand he never loses sight of what the music is about, which is to swing. He has a kindred soul in Wilkinson who comps with assurance and whose every solo is sharp and tasteful. Add Meyer and Halischuk and you have a winning combination. A sparkling quartet session that honors the past as it abides securely in the present.
My Ears Can’t Hear Your Voice; Safe!; Ain’t It So; For Marilyn; The Brightest Minute; Moody Blues; Dreamin’; For Matt and Kate.
Andrew Scott: guitar; Jake Wilkinson: piano; Jon Meyer: bass; Jeff Halischuk: drums.
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