Guitarist John Scofield has never had a problem interacting with saxophonists in a piano-less environment; anyone who admires the strong rapport that him and saxman Joe Lovano have enjoyed when there is no pianist on board can attest to that. So it isn't surprising that Scofield and Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith prove to be a strong combination on 1999's Blue Smith, which finds the two forming a piano-less quartet with upright bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn. The only familiar song on this post-bop is "Amazing Grace"; all of the other selections were written by Smith, who keep things unpredictable and provides a variety of blues-influenced material for the quartet to work with. Scofield excels on everything that Smith throws his way, and that includes the funky "Rain Dance" and the angular "Dr. Sco," as well as the Native American-influenced "Rain Dance" and the John Coltrane-minded "Touch Your Toes." As the title indicates, Blue Smith is a CD with a lot of blues feeling; it isn't an album in which Smith (who is heard on both tenor and soprano) plays 12-bar blues numbers exclusively, but it is an album in which Smith and Scofield never forget the importance of blues feeling. Blue Smith is among his strongest albums.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson