Detroit saxophonist Randy Scott cites Grover Washington Jr. as the major influence for his smooth-jazz sound. If that’s a surprise to you I’m shocked. But like most pop-sax artists today, Scott fails to follow Washington’s lead and turn the music into something other than what the rest of the urban-jazz saxophonists are doing. That crucial point aside, there’s nothing a casual fan who stumbles onto Scott’s music would find fault with. It’s professional and gives off good vibes. Scott’s interplay with flugelhornist Dwight Adams on “Mo’ Better Blues” is certainly a pleasure, and guitarists Tim Bowman and Al Turner add spunk to “Bliss” and “San Juan,” respectively.
But too often there’s little payoff at the end of the journey. That’s a shame, because Scott’s résumé as a session player and Showtime at the Apollo winner is impressive, and there are fits and spurts of a major player evident in tunes like “What More Could I Ask For.” But it’s a different world today than in Washington’s prime. Washington created a style of urban pop music with an emphasis on jazz integrity. Without vision and a certain amount of disregard for format, saxophonists like Scott often dip into the same well and end up playing themselves out of existence.