Tom Scott & the L.A. Express / Tom Scott

Tom Scott & the L.A. Express/Tom Cat/New York Connection

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The second chapter in BGO's reissue program from saxophonist Tom Scott's Epic period assembles three albums from the mid-'70s on two discs. Unlike his GRP sides of a decade later, these three dates all feature Scott blowing with imagination and power, even at the funkiest of times. Included are 1974's Tom Scott & the L.A. Express, and 1975's Tom Cat and New York Connection. The first of these albums featured Scott's best all-around band with Joe Sample on keyboards, guitarist Larry Carlton, drummer John Guerin, and bassist Max Bennett. Polished? Yeah, but gritty, too: check the utterly reivisioned reading of John Coltrane's "Dahomey Dance" as a jazz-funk groover, or uptempo jams such as "L.A. Expression" and "Nunya." Sample and Carlton left the band before Tom Cat and were replaced by guitarist Robben Ford and keyboardist Larry Nash, and the results are just as compelling. Hard groovers like "Rock Island Rocket," the melodic bump of the title track, and the popping "Backfence Cattin," make this a prime exercise. Joni Mitchell even shows up for a bit of wordless vocalizing on the languid "Love Poem." New York Connection, while more polished and less intensely funky than its predecessors, is still completely worthwhile. Scott works with a rotating cast of sidemen who include Bob James, Richard Tee, Hugh McCracken, Eric Gale, Ralph MacDonald, Steve Gadd, Chuck Findley, and Dick Hyde. Former Beatle George Harrison takes a signature slide guitar break on the sweet "Appolonia." Other standouts include the fingerpopping "Uptown & Country" (which borrows equally from Motown and Stax) and the dancefloor strut of "Midtown Rush," with its wild meld of synth and treated harmonica. These records may be of their time, but they also stand its test.

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