The first tones you hear on This Meets That are those of John Scofield's guitar as if it's being tuned to a particular frequency. Listening to the CD it becomes clear there is, in fact, a wavelength into which all the musicians involved have locked.
No doubt bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart know that wavelength well, having worked with Scofield in the past, including Enroute (Verve, 2004). Yet it's crucial to appreciating This Meets That that it's not just the work of the leader plus rhythm section and the addition of horns. This project, rather, is a unified collaboration of seven stellar players.
"Down D illustrates what the venerable guitarist learned about technology as a means to pure sound during the Uberjam (Verve, 2002) phase of his career. Yet, as on "The Low Road, the whisper of the four-man horn sectionsaxophonist/clarinetist Roger Rosenberg, saxophonist/flautist Laurence Feldman, trombonist Jim Pugh and trumpeter/flugelhornist John Swanahas the detail of orchestration, as it appeared literally on Scorched the 2004 Deutsche Grammofon collaboration with Marc-Anthony Turnage. Add to that the way the wind instruments accentuate but never intrude on "Strangeness in the Night and it's clear this new album does not, in any way, repeat Scofield's use of horns on his Ray Charles tribute, That's What I Say (Verve, 2005), Up All Night (Verve,. 2003) or Groove Elation (Blue Note, 1995).
It is, however, somewhat ironic that the CD's virtues come to the fore most clearly on the cover material included here amongst eight originals. Charlie Rich's country hit "Behind Closed Doors is rendered as a quasi-blues by the trio essentially alone, and it's here you realize how you don't so much hear Stewart and Swallow so much as feel them constantly. Perhaps due to the presence of (tremolo) guitarist Bill Frisell, "The House of the Rising Sun represents a distinct escalation to a much more intense atmosphere and, again, the understatement of the horns, by contrast, emphasizes that shifting of gears.
Scofield's distinction as a guitarist gains prominence as the album comes to a close. Never resorting to cliché or repeating himself, he unites the bite of blues with the fluidity of jazz guitar as he hits notes from oblique angles on "Shoe Dog. His axe elevates the urban air introduced by the horns on "Memorette, and the riff of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction acts as a launch pad for a recapitulation, by the horns and the trio, of the brisk interplay that fills the preceding tracks.
While Scofield's debut on the Emarcy label ever so slightly recalls his past work, the guitarist utilizes this recording to illuminate new facets of his playing. He also goes to great lengths to educate himself on production concepts and deepen the experience of his work with varying instrumental lineups. Worthwhile ambitions to be sure, and all the more laudable when executed with the panache and meticulous attention to detail present here.
The Low Road; Down D; Strangeness in the Night; Heck of a Job;
Behind Closed Doors; House of the Rising Sun; Shoe Dog; Memorette;
Trio Blues; Pretty Out; I Can't Get No Satisfaction.
John Scofield: guitar; Steve Swallow: bass; Bill Stewart: drums; Roger
Rosenberg: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Lawrence Feldman:
tenor saxophone, flutes; Jim Pugh: trombone; John Swana: trumpet,
flugelhorn; Bill Frisell: tremolo guitar (6).
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