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NEW RELEASES : A Fine Example of 4 Guys Sitting Around Playing

March 28, 1993|ZAN STEWART

JOHN SCOFIELD

"What We Do"

Blue Note

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This aptly titled album sounds remarkably close to how the guitarist's quartet, one of the most compelling of modern contemporary ensembles, comes across in person: undeniably classy and vibrant, and extremely musical.

In contrast to so many of the albums and performances that one hears today, this music is open and spatial. It's inviting stuff that beckons to a listener. There's almost a conversational tone to it, where, without vocals, Scofield, saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Bill Stewart become four white guys sitting around talking. This band sounds like a band , not some quickly assembled gaggle of musicians.

All nine selections are by the leader, and while these numbers are idiosyncratic to say the least--there's very little pure melody, and things have a way of stopping and starting unexpectedly--they are decidedly intriguing, intelligent, tuneful and humorous. The latter quality is exemplified by "Camp Out," a most-modern instrumental based on Allan Sherman's 1963 novelty hit, "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh!" Scofield is the dominant personality here; his approach--a mix of country twang, rock edge, jazz fluidity and atonal sparks--grabs you. Still, it's a democratic band where each player's contribution is essential.

There are highlights aplenty, among them the easy groove of "Little Walk," the reflective "Easy for You," and "What They Did," which is a '90s number based on Miles Davis' '50s rhythm changes classic, "Out of the Blue."

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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