John Scofield

Combo 66

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Lauded guitarist John Scofield continued his late-career resurgence with the earthy and warm 2018 quartet date, Combo 66. Named in honor of the guitarist's 66th birthday, the album features Scofield alongside organist/pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Bill Stewart. Combo 66 arrives on the heels of several other well-received Scofield albums, including 2016's Country for Old Men, and 2017's Hudson. As with those albums, here the guitarist has put together an ensemble of like-minded musicians who bring a wealth of experience to the proceedings. Together, they perform with an intuitive sense for group interplay, grounded by Scofield's twangy electric guitar lines. Musically, they straddle the line between jaunty folkiness (as on the opening "Can't Dance"), propulsive, harmonically-rich post-bop ("Icons at the Fair"), and bluesy balladry ("Uncle Southern"). More often than not (see the soulful "New Waltzo"), Clayton lays down a shimmering bed of organ, allowing Scofield to dance on top with languid assurance, as Archer and Stewart steady him. Elsewhere, Scofield digs into the rhapsodic country-soul of "Willa Jean," splits the difference between Roy Clark-style chicken-picking and Grant Green's rubbery hard bop on "Dang Swing," and evokes the dreamy style of '70s Pat Martino on "I'm Sleeping In." While never drawing too much of the focus away from Scofield, Clayton continues to reveal his urbane sophistication, moving from juicy organ to crystalline piano with ease throughout. Equally compelling are Archer and Stewart; they are the album's deeply swinging, if always understated, underpinnings. A somewhat low-key album, Combo 66 nonetheless reveals Scofield''s ever-deepening musical maturity.

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