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March 2001

John Scofield
Works For Me
Verve

Making a conceptual departure from his recent funky groove-oriented projects, John Scofield treads a somewhat more standard path on Works for Me, which also features the talents of bassist Christian McBride, drummer Billy Higgins, acoustic pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Kenny Garrett. But don’t think that this is your typical straightahead blowing session. Sure, everyone gets a chance to step out front, but the tunes—all Scofield’s except for one group collaboration—cover lots of ground and certainly exceed the conventional. They encompass elements that range from eccentric to sublime to in-the-pocket.

One of the set’s more gorgeous elements is the way in which sax and guitar blend during ensemble passages on tunes like “Heel to Toe,” “Not You Again” and “Loose Cannon.” Sco’s edgy, compressed tone beautifully complements Garrett’s alto and the results are particularly effective. Then there are the compositions, which display Scofield’s ability to incorporate a broad array of moods and devices. Cases in point include “Not You Again” (a near parody of “There Will Never Be Another You”), the lithely postmodal “Love You Long Time” (whose title sounds like a line from Full Metal Jacket) and “Hive” (with its chaotic opening and metric changes). Garrett blows excellently throughout the set, and Mehldau contributes some especially nice playing on “Six and Eight.” While Scofield occasionally stumbles, his playing is frequently brilliant, witnessed by his bluesy solo on “Heel to Toe” (with some cool interaction with Garrett) and the grooving “Do I Crazy?” (where John spins out his trademark angular phrases).

All in all, this latest chapter in the career of one of contemporary jazz’s most important guitarists is a killer performance from top to bottom.

Originally published in March 2001
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