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September 2002

Scott Colley
Initial Wisdom
Palmetto Records

Initially, there seems to be more smooth jazz and fusion stylings on bassist Scott Colley's Initial Wisdom than improvisatory tendencies. Ultimately that's not the case, even if Colley's bass lines are often static or rigid. Instead, his band is navigating the fine line between funk-pop and a jazz sensibility. They never degenerate into aimless noodling, lightweight arrangements or limp playing, but such songs as "The Susser," "Far Rockaway" and "Barracudas" are constructed with both a listening and dancing audience in mind. Likewise, "Scorpios" could easily be added to any urban station's Sunday afternoon instrumental segments, with its feathery opening section, mellow soprano lead by Ravi Coltrane and Adam Rogers' flickering guitar that frequently recalls Pat Metheny in his more introspective moments.

Still, Colley's group contains too many accomplished players for this date to completely lack musical grit and authority. Coltrane's a good soprano player and better tenor stylist, even if the inevitable comparisons will be made to his father in terms of his tone, his choices of notes and tendency to ramble. Rogers can play arresting, attacking electric-guitar solos, and then switch to charming, sentimental acoustic ones. Colley doesn't step out front that much, preferring instead to lead from the rhythm section. He and drummer Bill Stewart are dependable, but hardly spectacular.

Many of the songs, especially "Scorpios," "Trouble in Paradise" and "Eccentric Circles," feature above average melodies and arrangements. "Scorpios" especially hooks the listener with an inventive melody before it moves into some equally good solos.

Ultimately, Initial Wisdom is a pretty good band record, and far better than much of what gets trotted out as smooth jazz.

Originally published in September 2002
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