This One's for Barney
Just one of the nine songs on Andrew Scott's leader debut, This One's for Barney, is a Barney Kessel tune, and Scott doesn't ever overtly mimic the West Coast guitar legend's tone or style. So this disc mostly pays tribute by existing as a record of straightahead bebop as invigorating as the best in B.K.'s own catalog. No joke: Most small-combo standards sessions don't light up like this one.
It's impossible to pick out the firestarter in the band-the person who infused "If I Should Lose You" with such joy that it lasts nearly 10 minutes, or whoever pushed "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" so hard that it could only be the album's opening grab-me track, bursting forth with a sophisticated kind of golden-era 52nd St. excitement. Scott and saxophonist Harry Allen certainly share responsibility for the enthusiasm on that opener, with both contributing separate gate-leaping solos and later collaborating to seamlessly trade fours-but then pianist Bernie Senensky and drummer Joel Haynes end it with a startling Latin flourish.
A modest Scott largely lays out when he's not soloing, allowing Senensky to add the punchy undercurrent beneath the others' spotlit moments. And when the pianist breaks for an assured solo flight he stands up against prime-era Oscar Peterson. Scott saves himself for leads where his robust, authoritative tone and stunning improvisational command twist a melody like his "Blues for Sonny" around the fretboard until he's wrung it for all it's worth, and it's great fun listening to him do it. This will likely be the most enjoyable album of its sort that you're going to hear all year.