Siftin' Thru Ashes

Matt Schofield / Matt Schofield Trio

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Siftin' Thru Ashes Review

by Alex Henderson

Blues-rock and blues-jazz are two different worlds. Blues-jazz tends to appeal to Jimmy Witherspoon fans who also appreciate Richard "Groove" Holmes and Jack McDuff; blues-rock tends to appeal to Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan fans who also know a great Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen solo when they hear one. But there are times when blues-rock and blues-jazz come together; they have often come together for Robben Ford, and they come together with memorable results on Matt Schofield's Siftin' Thru Ashes. This 2005 release finds Schofield leading an organ trio -- Schofield on vocals and guitar, Jonny Henderson on organ, and Evan Jenkins on drums -- and that format helps bring out the jazz element. Organ trios, of course, were a crucial part of soul-jazz in the '50s and '60s; the organ trio was a format that served Holmes, McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott, and many others well. And it is a format that allows for a lot of improvisation on the instrumental "Djam." But instrumentals are the exception instead of the rule on Siftin' Thru Ashes; Schofield sings more often than not on this album, which offers a healthy balance of blues-rock muscle and blues-jazz sophistication. Schofield is a loud, gritty, sweaty, burning dynamo of an electric guitarist, but all that toughness doesn't erase his desire to include some jazz complexity in his recipe -- and that ability to balance blues-rock and blues-jazz considerations serves him well on original material as well as an inspired cover of the Box Tops' '60s hit "The Letter." Siftin' Thru Ashes doesn't take the jazz element quite as far as some albums by Robben Ford and Dave Specter -- Schofield doesn't include any Thelonious Monk or Charlie Parker tunes -- but even so, this CD is an enjoyable demonstration of what can happen when blues-rock and blues-jazz are united.

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