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John Scofield : A Moment’s Peace

Philip Booth reviews the latest from guitarist extraordinaire John Scofield

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Ballads can be the most challenging tunes to play, because they can’t be artificially energized by way of accelerated tempos or gratuitous displays of chops. Likewise, the absence of those elements keeps some listeners from warming to the form. John Scofield, not surprisingly given his range of abilities and musical interests, makes ballad playing seem easy and sound irresistible on A Moment’s Peace. The collection of slow-tempo gems finds the guitarist joined by like-minded younger players: frequent collaborators Larry Goldings on piano and organ and Scott Colley on upright bass, and, recording with Scofield for the first time, well-traveled drummer Brian Blade.

The program is about evenly split between originals and intriguing interpretations of familiarities, including a lovely version of the Beatles’ “I Will.” Sco also takes on Carla Bley’s haunting “Lawns” and imbues “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” with deep blues feeling, coloring inside and outside the lines and making listeners keen to hear where he’s going next. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” benefits from syncopated rhythm-section playing that hints at funk and reggae, and “I Loves You, Porgy” opens with spacey organ figures before the leader enters for a rubato reading.

The originals are similarly compelling, beginning with opening track “Simply Put,” its loping rhythms topped by a ringing, bleeding guitar figure-that familiar slightly overdriven burr-that evokes Americana. Other original standouts include the probing “Throw It Away” and the elegantly unhurried “Already September,” on which Scofield brings to mind Jim Hall. It’s all consistently laidback, yes, but those with discerning ears won’t find anything dull here. These musical currents move slowly but run deep.

Originally Published