Guitarist John Stowell joins the trio of bassist Jeff Johnson, drummer John Bishop, and tenor saxophonist Rick Mandyck on this mellow, intensely reflective recording. Stowell is an exceptional musician whose lyrical and nimble fret-work stands beside such other luminaries as Jim Hall and Bill Frissel. Having received many accolades in recent years, Scenes is a good example of why Stowell deserves even wider recognition. A congenial mix of standards and originals, Scenes has a rainy day quality of musicians gathering to share in the warmth of their sounds. Never stomping on each other musically, each musician nevertheless establishes his identity firmly through melodic, conversational playing that is the epitome of modern, eclectic jazz. Never as relentlessly cerebral or folky as say, an ECM release, Stowell and friends still approach such songs as McCoy Tyner's "Blues on the Corner" with a scientific deliberation, anatomizing the blues to illuminate the whole body of the song. Ironically, by the time they get to Miles Davis' "Nefertiti" -- a song designed around an ambient group aesthetic -- they choose to begin with a bass solo, deconstructing themselves into the melody one instrument at a time. Jeff Johnson -- who performed with Chet Baker -- references both the melancholy trumpeter's style and Ingmar Bergman's film on his winsome "Persona," which features quietly stunning interplay between Mandyck and Stowell. While none of these songs are up-tempo "burners" to shake you into listening, this disc is by no means a passive listen.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar