Tom Scott and L.A. Express: Smokin’ Section

Prolific sax man Tom Scott and the L.A. Express (no, not retired members of the old USFL football team) take on the popular urban streetscape sound and emerge unscathed on Smokin’ Section (Windham Hill Jazz WADV 11379-2; 69:05). Scott’s alto work is cagey enough on the dark mood-to-upbeat pieces (“Smokin’ Section”) and gentle and introspective enough on the ball ads (“Lonely One”) to detract attention from some of the less exciting pop R&B elements (like the flat snaps running through “I’ll Still Be Lovin You”).

Much more fun are the standout oddities here-the bluesy, deep textured inner-soul road trip “Cruisin’ Bayou” gets a dark, adventuring mood from wandering piano and spindly guitar, and “Just Takin’ a Walk” is a vintage Scott, high-toned funk jazz showcase, complete with big horn chorus and great step-out riffs from the saxman. The most truly smokin’ piece, however, digs into the rock-and-soul bag-“Ode to Billie Joe” finds Scott slipping and sliding off the notes over rootsy guitar, as Patty Smyth’s vocal provides a throaty, soulful center.