Tuesday, June 12, 2018

John Scofield - 1988 [2014] "Loud Jazz"

The title, a phrase coined by Scofield's daughter, is the guitarist's typically witty take on the distinctive approach he had achieved with the quartet that included Robert Aries on keyboards, bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers. To add to the fun, former boss George Duke was called in to take keyboard solos on six tracks. This album is most indicative of what Scofield achieved during his Gramavision years.

There are "loud" moments on this studio set, but the title cut's name is more a humorous attempt to describe the John Scofield Quartet's music than an accurate depiction of their style. The leader/guitarist, who sounds typically distinctive, welcomes guest keyboardist George Duke to five of his nine originals. Scofield's regular group of the era consisted of keyboardist Robert Aries, electric bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers and they are also joined here by percussionist Don Alias. The music (which includes such numbers as "Tell You What," "Dirty Rice," "Wabash" and "Spy Vs. Spy") has few memorable melodies but plenty of dynamic playing by Scofield, who at this point was growing as a major stylist from album to album. A strong effort.

If I ever needed a title to categorize John Scofield releases from his Grammavision days, I couldn't find one more apt than Loud Jazz (Grammavision, 1988) This was the last of Sco's hot, electric funk fusion releases. He's still groovin' and in the pocket today, but not the electric, loud, in-your-face stuff evident on this album. Although I'm a fan of all of these early releases, and even some from the mid 70's, this is probably my favorite Scofield release. The reason is simple. All of the standard "Sco" stuff is there, but these tracks are more lyrical. The melodies and rhythms are less pushed. The album, overall, feels relaxed and hip.

And the classic gang is all there too. Gary Grainger is spry and funky on bass with Dennis Chambers doing what he does best with a powerful and punchy kick drum. They're joined by keyboardist Robert Aries and Don Alias on percussion, with George Duke taking the keyboard solos.

I can't think of a bad track on this album. Not even one that I get bored with. This is quintessential Sco-funk from the opener "Tell You What" to the title track. Like most Scofield albums, I find myself thinking "these guys had a lot of fun playing these tunes." There's energy, wit, humor-all the elements. I especially found the change of pace, almost melancholy ballad, "True Love" endearing. Even though there's room to take this and rip it like the other tracks despite the depressed tempo, Sco maintains the vibe, keeps it pretty, and does a wonderful job.

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Tracks Listing:

01. Tell You What (3:46)
02. Dance Me Home (5:55)
03. Signature Of Venus (4:42)
04. Dirty Rice (6:34)
05. Did It (5:38)
06. Wabash (4:33)
07. Loud Jazz (6:06)
08. Otay (6:14)
09. True Love (3:54)
10. Igetthepicture (4:07)
11. Spy Vs.Spy (6:16)

Total time 57:45

Personnel:

- John Scofield / guitar
- Robert Aries / keyboards
- George Duke / keyboard solos (1,2,4,6-8)
- Gary Grainger / bass
- Dennis Chambers / drums
- Don Alias / percussion

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