Home » Jazz Articles » Scenes: Variable Clouds: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival

3
Album Review

Scenes: Variable Clouds: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival

By

Sign in to view read count
Scenes: Variable Clouds: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival
The group Scenes has released seven excellent albums over two decades of recording together, beginning with their eponymous debut (Origin Records, 2001). All of those are studio efforts. The group's 2022 outing, Variable Clouds is a first for Scenes—their first album recorded live in front of an audience, in 2021 at the Earshot Jazz Festival.

This is a return to the group's original line-up. Saxophonist Rick Mandyck sat out for a time due to health problems, leaving Scenes a trio, or a quartet with saxophonist Hans Teuber sitting in. But on Variable Clouds Mandyck is back; he returned for 2020's Origin Records release Trapeze, and it sounds as though he is back for good. He returns in fine voice, as he joins guitarist John Stowell, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop, all players with long tenures at the Origin Records label, with Bishop the co-boss of the record company and, apparently, the head of the art department, designing almost all of the cover art.

The music is typical of Scenes—a robust saxophone and flexible rhythm section, with Stowell's luminescent guitar voice a prominent feature. The tunes come from the pens of Mandyck, Johnson and Bishop, with Rodgers and Harts' "Easy To Remember" slipped in alongside Jim Pepper's title tune, and Jan Garbarek's Witchi Tai To (ECM Records, 1974) serving as the closer.

The key to making a successful modern jazz album in the horn and a rhythm section mode is the group voice. Scenes has had a distinctive one from the beginning, and here it gets an even sharper focus. The live aspect of the set suits the group members, as they display an easy rapport that is fluidly conversational, slipping in and out of deep grooves and searching reveries.

The sound quality is sharp and clean, as good as anything that comes out of a studio. Put it on blindfold and Variable Clouds could easily be taken for a studio outing—and a top-notch, high-tech studio recording at that—until the low-in-the-mix applause at the end of the opening tune, "Tilbury Hill," comes in.

Track Listing

Tilbury Hill; Trudge; When Jasper Grows Up; Companions; Lonely Blue Angel; Variable Clouds; It's Easy to Remember; Studio City; Witchi Tai To.

Personnel

Rick Mandyck: saxophone; John Stowell: guitar; Jeff Johnson: bass, acoustic; John Bishop: drums.

Album information

Title: Variable Clouds: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Origin Records


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

Discover
Eric Jacobson
Andromeda's Mystery
Doruzka/Wylezot/Ballard
Pictures in Time
Alex Sjobeck
Universos
Yotam Silberstein

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.