John Scofield: Piety Street

[Emarcy Records]

Apr 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm

John Scofield has applied his innovative Jazz guitar methodology to every conceivable subset of the genre — Funk, Blues, Bebop, Chamber Jazz, Electronica and many others — over his storied career as a Jazz sessioner and solo artist. For his astonishing 36th album under his own name, Piety Street, Scofield has assembled a crack band of singers and players to create a Gospel/Blues/Jazz hybrid that is inspirational from both a musical and spiritual context.

Scofield pares his improvisational leanings down to the bare minimum while his band (vocalist John Boutte, bassist George Porter Jr., keyboardist Jon Cleary, drummer Ricky Fataar and percussionist Shannon Powell) pulse and pound with the fervor of an electric tent revival. Starting with the roof-raising swing of “That’s Enough,” where Scofield peels off Blues runs with B.B. King-like ease, the guitarist and his band inhabit these classic and contemporary spirituals (“Motherless Child,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” the Rev. James Cleveland’s powerful “Something’s Got a Hold on Me”) with a devotion that speaks to their long musical paths and their sincere desire to translate the songs within and beyond their original contexts. Amen, and pass the Piety Street. Grade: B