For All We Know
Casual listening might dismiss For All We Know as background music. It has the swing and lyrical-but-airy atmosphere of the jazz quartet at your local Sunday Brunch special, and trumpeter-leader Eddie Henderson and guitarist John Scofield, while creative, practice considerable subtlety in their work. But subversive elements are at work on this superb record, and they’re not even that far below the surface.
For starters, the rhythm section, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Billy Drummond, cooks. Drummond’s cymbals and snare are turned up high in the mix, so that his chattering ride cymbal and bombs on “Jitterbug Waltz” and “Sand Storm” are as prominent a presence as Henderson’s lithe trumpet. Weiss isn’t quite so forthright, but he isn’t playing rote walking basslines, either; he adds a palpable slither to “Popo,” and on “By Myself” his stridence keeps pace so tightly with Drummond that the accents they strike together sound like a timpani. Theirs is a punchy pulse that is hardly music to eat eggs Florentine by.
And the arrangements themselves aren’t as mellow as they seem. “Be Cool” has a jovial, carefree melody, but the chord changes are fraught with tension that complicates the mood. “Cantaloupe Island” is close to Stax soul, even with the ensemble’s softer textures, and both “Jitterbug Waltz” and “By Myself” trail off from the written forms into loose, pernicious jams. (On “Jitterbug,” Scofield even trots out some Jerry Garcia-isms.) Only the ballads, “Missing Miles” and the title track, are truly as delicate and sweet as they appear on first listen, and both are characterized by sensitive Henderson solos.