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'Combo 66' Sounds Like You'll Be Hearing It Forever

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Wednesday October 03, 2018

From PopMatters

John Scofield’s ‘Combo 66’ Sounds Like You’ll Be Hearing It Forever
By: Will Layman

Recent years, however, have seen Scofield playing music that veers back toward straight-ahead jazz but, miraculously perhaps, still carries the lessons and sheer fun of the playful jam-jazz that reminds us that the form still can move feet as well as the heart. Combo 66 is right in that sweet spot. Come one, come all, it’s fabulous.

The grooving opener, “Can’t Dance”, is a swinger with a sexy throb at its heart. The first part of the tune is a light melody that rides over Stewart’s ticking ride cymbal and Clayton’s swirling, fuzzy organ, but it is contrasted with a funky interlude section that has B3, guitar, and bass playing a unison lick that could be from a James Brown side. Scofield’s solo is hummably great, winding up and down in memorable hooks, high squiggles, and fuzz-toned blue notes. The rhythm section below him does everything a great jazz trio can do: call-and-response, playful rhythmic prodding and accenting, that push-pull feeling of impeccable swing. The funk lick jumps in at the end to launch Clayton, who starts his solo with a hip, choked sound using only a few organ stops, meeting the lick on the other side of a tasty improvisation.

There is only one true ballad here, but it is enchanting. “I’m Sleeping In” moves with stately grace, outlining a melody that sits squarely between a classic Tin Pan Alley tune and a rock era classic that could have been written by Paul Simon. It begs for lyrics, but the band infuses it with a melancholy feeling, Clayton’s piano barely chiming in the background but providing the whisper of harmony that color the tune with implied sadness.

John Scofield makes this kind of album-length delight seem tossed-off, casual, easy-as-pie. He wrote each appealing theme, and his worn-in guitar tone dominates every track like the voice of a favorite actor—his guitar sound is arguably the Morgan Freeman jazz, wise and great to hear, never tiring but never dull.

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