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JAZZ REVIEW

Scott swings back to traditional bebop

Saxophonist leads his strong septet in an evening of unsullied jazz.

September 18, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Mention an area of the music business and saxophonist-composer Tom Scott -- a veteran of gigs and/or recordings with George Harrison, Joni Mitchell and Sting among dozens of others -- has probably been there. But lately he's been stretching his interests even wider, producing and arranging music for Daniel Rodriguez, the Singing Policeman, while putting together the music for his own Bebop Septet.

The latter development comes as good news to jazz fans who have long valued the rare occasions when Scott doffs his film composing, record production and studio sideman caps in favor of a bebop beret. On Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill, that's precisely what he did, leading an all-star seven-piece band in a briskly swinging collection of his own arrangements and originals.

Despite Scott's extensive experience with pop music, despite his frequent excursions into smooth jazz, his Bebop Septet performed as advertised, sans links with jazz-rock, fusion and crossover. Most of the arrangements, in fact, could easily have been written a few decades ago, and the material ranged from standards ("I Hear Music") to jazz items ("Sack o' Woe"). Nothing wrong with that, since Scott's septet writing style -- an extension of the music thread reaching from the Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" bands to the small West Coast ensembles of the '50s -- had the sort of timeless quality that made each number immediately engaging.

Add to that some first-class soloing -- especially from Scott, tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb, trumpeter Ron Stout and trombonist Bob McChesney, with pianist Tom Ranier, dummer Johnny Friday and bassist Trey Henry adding hard-driving rhythmic support -- and the result was an easygoing evening of consistently entertaining jazz.

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