John Scofield hates to sit still. He rarely goes more than two or three years playing a certain variety of jazz before he abruptly switches gears. His restlessness is part of the reason why he is one of the most highly respected six-string wielding jazz musicians of this generation. But with a recording career touching on such a wide range of styles over three decades, it's inevitable that at some point that Scofield will revisit some stops he's made along the way. This Meets That, coming out September 18 on the resurrected Emarcy label, can be seen as a look back. And in more ways than one.
The first hint that Sco' is in a reflective mood is from looking at the band's lineup. Drummer Bill Stewart and bass player Steve Swallow had both backed up Scofield on 1994's collaboration with Pat Metheny I Can See Your House From Here, 1996's low-key Quiet, and 2004's live En Route. The association with Steve Swallow goes back even further, as we've explained previously. Scofield considers the rhythm section of The John Scofield Trio to be his "A Team," which is heady praise coming from someone who's invariably had rhythm sections featuring the likes of Charlie Haden, Jack deJohnette, Marc Johnson, and Omar Hakim.
The second — and most important — evidence of the nostalgia is the music itself; it's a hard swinging type of small combo jazz supplemented by a four part horn section. This unique variety of chamber jazz was almost a trademark of Scofield's records from the early-to-mid nineties. But this is the first time he's added the horns to his electric trio (Scofield played acoustic guitar on Quiet). So, followers of that period will be greeted with a very familiar, if not quite identical, sound.
It doesn't seem that way in the opening seconds, however; "The Low Road" starts out just like "Polo Towers" from his acid-jazz record Uberjam with some feedback and a C sharp based dark chord he built the song around. But this time, the song goes down a different path with Stewart's hopping drumwork and the horns accentuating in all the right spots. The leader wastes no time in ripping loose a familiar sizzler of a solo that puts all the right notes in all the right places.