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John Scofield: Combo 66 (Verve)

Review of an electric/acoustic quartet album with a title that matches the guitarist's age

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Cover of John Scofield album Combo 66
Cover of John Scofield album Combo 66

At age 66, guitarist John Scofield has earned heroic jazz/fusion status for his understated style, open mind, and tributaries that include releases with jam-band festival faves Medeski, Martin & Wood and Gov’t Mule. On Combo 66, Scofield adopts a unique, hybrid electric/acoustic improvisational format—in which he’s often the only electric instrumentalist—with a quartet rounded out by younger, energetic players in keyboardist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Bill Stewart.

The buoyant opener “Can’t Dance,” with Clayton on Hammond organ, echoes guitarist George Benson’s work with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith from the mid-1960s. The nimble keyboardist, son of esteemed Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra bassist John Clayton, switches to acoustic piano for the subsequent, downshifted “Combo Theme,” on which he and Archer (another versatile player who plays both acoustic and electric basses, but sticks to upright throughout this disc) each take stirring solos.

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