John Scofield, John Scofield, ECM ****

Solo instrumental albums are the ultimate in one sense for fans, the chance to hear their idol, and John Scofield who turned 70 this year is the idol of generations of jazz fans globally, in isolation. It's a chance to get intimate with the little …

Published: 10 May 2022. Updated: 4 months.

Solo instrumental albums are the ultimate in one sense for fans, the chance to hear their idol, and John Scofield who turned 70 this year is the idol of generations of jazz fans globally, in isolation. It's a chance to get intimate with the little finicky details of their sound sometimes swamped in post-production if a complex studio album or crowded out by gatherings of equally fine players. And Scofield surounds himself with the best.

The contrary position to this theory is that jazz is about group improvisation and you get extra layers of imagination when musicians are playing in a group. I'd agree to an extent with both positions but I do enjoy solo albums on certain instruments, piano mostly. (Solo double bass can work but is patchy and can be wearing. But solo erhu or Tibetan flute really can't without the urge to retreat to a monastery, the contemplation of silence or self-harm gets in the way! Guitar as here is fine.)

A good comparison is when Sco's fellow icon Pat Metheny released One Quiet Night in 2003 and you got a simplifed melodicism say on 'Ferry Cross the Mersey' the old Gerry and the Pacemakers classic that you rarely hear the same way on a Metheny record. (Metheny's later Orchestrion, a very different kind of solo record, shows just what one person and a musical robot can do.)

With Sco there is also a huge complexity in his playing and yet his gritty style and energy always offsets any obscurity that playing blizzards of chord changes all the time can sometimes create. So there is a clarity akin to what happened when Metheny released his album with this record which is very appealing and is more personal than say playing Steve Swallow tunes although of course the empathy with Swallow was and is so strong. 2020's Swallow's Tales was also very intimate no matter that it was several steps removed from what we have here.

John Scofield includes standards 'It Could Happen to You', 'There Will Never Be Another You' and 'My Old Flame' traditional tunes 'Danny Boy' and 'Junco Partner', a version of Keith Jarrett's 'Coral' and Sco's own tunes 'Honest I Do,' 'Mrs. Scofield’s Waltz', 'Since You Asked' and 'Trance Du Hour.' You discover Scofield all over again on this tour de force and to an extent distillation of the essence of what makes him tick. And certainly the end result is that you feel you know him that bit more partly because the album has been curated so well. SG

Tags: album and track reviews

Olga Reznichenko Trio, Somnambule, Traumton ***

Fans of Nikki Iles step this way even if you have never heard of Russian Olga Reznichenko nor she possibly Iles as the pianist makes her debut recording here at the Loft studio in Cologne. And yet there is a twist when this music masters student in …

Published: 9 May 2022. Updated: 4 months.

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Fans of Nikki Iles step this way even if you have never heard of Russian Olga Reznichenko nor she possibly Iles as the pianist makes her debut recording here at the Loft studio in Cologne. And yet there is a twist when this music masters student in Leipzig traverses the pastoral, bucolic domain that Iles habitually chooses. Also factor in the inevitable influences of Reznichenko's former teachers Michael Wollny and Richie Beirach although Reznichenko is enough of an individualist to swerve away from copying their styles or anyone's (you might think too of Gwilym Simcock a little in some passages). With bassist Lorenz Heigenhuber and drummer Maximilian Stadtfeld there is a quiet and convincing intellectualism at play and while suffused with a chamber-jazz language the direction also has a relationship with classical music although it's certainly more jazz than classical beyond modal building blocks and a certain impressionistic sideways glance that somehow can gain an unlikely intensity. The pieces are her own and certainly retain your interest. 'One Hit Backlash' is more dynamic while 'Ground Most Must Take' has an avant beginning thanks to the bassist's aching high register sense of abstraction. It's all obviously impressive playing technically. Whether the album grips the listener throughout is another matter although there are flashes of inspiration that make you stay for the long haul and makes this a promising debut where the focus ultimately is really on the pianist more than the trio as an entity even if it is not designed as such. But isn't that often the way with a piano trio no matter how democratic a construct it is? SG

Out on 20 May