Another fine release from Scofield whose playing continues to develop and inspire all, and a worthy addition to any collection.

ECM 2796 / 557 2552

John Scofield (guitar); Vicente Archer (double bass); Bill Stewart (drums)

Recorded August 2022

Every time John Scofield picks up his guitar there is an eager sense of anticipation, and a feeling that he can take his music anywhere, and here on this double album he does just that.

The music on this outstanding set has an edge of the seat excitement. Often quietly spoken, there is an intensity and focus in the sounds that these three musicians produce that is completely and utterly absorbing.

The trio appear to tease and cajole the tunes into being, moulding them into their own shape as they do so. The opening tune, Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ is a case in question where Scofield’s playing hints at the familiar, yet it is difficult to pinpoint. You feel you know what’s coming but can’t quite identify it, however there is a moment just prior to stating the melody where all becomes clear.

The music over the two CDs (the release date for the two LP set is not yet known) is wide ranging and full of variety, and it is not difficult to imagine when listening that you are sat in a club and the trio are playing live in front of you. That sort of immediate connection with an audience is rare on recorded medium, but after every number you almost expect to hear audience applause.

The guitarist contributes seven original compositions to the set, with the remainder comprising standards, Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ and the title track by the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter and Jerome Garcia, which Scofield says is one of favourite songs by the band.

As one would expect from these three virtuosos the music is very free and open to interpretation and detailed investigation. From the fleet driving melody line of ‘How Deep’ the trio see just how deep they can go into the standard 32 bar tune.

Bassist Vicente Archer makes his ECM debut on this recording and do so with some style. His playing is full toned and rhythmically solid, and yet is flexible and versatile enough to break up his line to follow Scofield and drummer Bill Stewart at a moment’s notice.  His provides superb support throughout and his playing is a delight. He produces a wonderful bass line on ‘TV Band’ and the poignant ‘Nothing Is Forever’, as well as his solo on ‘Stairway To The Stars’.

With a reputation for being harmonically astute, Scofield’s ‘Mo Green’ has a stimulating solo from the guitarist who confesses that “I borrowed the vibe from one of my own tunes ‘Green Tea’.” This is immediately followed by the funky groove of ‘Mask’, yet the guitarist maintains a dignified sound and control in an eloquent sol that he could have allowed to go in a completely different direction.

It is interesting to hear how Bil Stewart has found his own niche in the music. Nothing ever gets too overheated, and his commentary has a restraint and elegance about it that lifts the music. On the bebop outings on ‘Budo’ and ‘Ray’s Idea’ he drives things along with good taste and a subtle swing, elsewhere he has this innate knack of knowing just what to play and where placing his accents with precision but never holding down the bass and guitar in their excursions. Excellent throughout, just check out his playing on ‘Somewhere’ and the closing ‘Uncle John’s Band’.

Another fine release from Scofield whose playing continues to develop and inspire all, and a worthy addition to any collection.