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Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: John Scofield - Piety Street

John Scofield - Piety Street
2009, EmArcy/Decca Records

John Scofield has a long standing reputation as one of the top jazz guitarists of his generation, and to some the decision to tackle an album of southern gospel songs may seem out of character, but Jazz and Gospel have common ancestors. Scofield underscores this connection on Piety Street, his latest release on EmArcy/Decca Records. Thirteen tracks of gospel fused with jazz is what Scofield serves up on Piety Street, perhaps one of the most electric and energetic albums from Scofield in a while.

Piety Street opens with That's Enough, staying close to the Gospel roots of the song. This paves the way for Motherless Child, which gets sidetracked into a serious jam on guitar. It's A Big Army is a lively tune that will have them falling down in the aisles; Scofield invokes a little of Chet Atkins guitar style on this one, and the choir that accompanies him is top notch. His Eye Is On The Sparrow is written into a strong jazz arrangement that allows Scofield to show off his axe skills a bit without straying too far from the original melody. Scofield mixes in a little R&B vocal group styling on Something's Got A Hold On Me, one of the better arrangements on the disc.

Just A Little While To Stay Here showcases Scofield at his very best; displaying a subtlety and feel for the music that is uncanny, Scofield makes magic at low speed for what is perhaps the most sonically pleasing song offered here. Never Turn Back breaks out from a rock beat and some funky guitar turns to update a gospel classic. Other highlights include Walk With Me, But I Like The Message and I'll Fly Away.

Fans of John Scofield don't need to be told, but this man has some of the touch of Chet Atkins, and the subtle nature of Mark Knopfler. He can play anything, but Jazz is the field on which he plays. Piety Street is an inspired work, updating a set of gospel classics in a reverent but forward-thinking fashion. This disc will be on some year-end favorites, and don't be entirely surprised if it gets some dark horse consideration come Grammy time.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can purchase a copy of Piety Street through, or download the album through Amazon MP3 or iTunes.

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