John Scofield – Swallow Tales (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 52:50 minutes | 1,07 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © ECM
Guitarist John Scofield celebrates the music of his friend and mentor Steve Swallow in an outgoing and spirited recording, made in a day in New York in March 2019 – “old school” style as Scofield says, while acknowledging that more than forty years of preparation led up to it. John was a 20-year-old student at Berklee when he first met and played with the bassist, and they have continued ever since. “I love these songs”, says Scofield of the selection of Swallow compositions explored here – a broad range including classics such as “Hullo Bolinas”, “Eiderdown”, “Falling Grace” and “Radio”, as well as lesser-known works. The rapport between Scofield and Swallow is evident in every moment. John: “Sometimes when we play it’s like one big guitar, the bass part and my part together.” Behind the drum kit, Bill Stewart, a close associate of Scofield’s since the early 90s, is alert to all the implications of the interaction. “What Bill does is more than ‘playing the drums,’” Scofield says. “He’s a melodic voice in the music, while also swinging really hard.”
Rather than contempt, familiarity breeds a comfortable groove on Swallow Tales, a shared vision for a group of notable tunes written by the venerable bass veteran Steve Swallow. This straight-ahead conversation between old friends and musical partners was recorded in a brief four hours; the result is a flavorful snapshot of a long and fruitful relationship now over 40 years old between guitarist John Scofield and his mentor Swallow. The pair is accompanied by Scofield’s go-to drummer, the versatile Bill Stewart, whom the guitarist has played with in a number of different musical contexts.
Energized by the easy charm of musical instinct, this session opens with one of Swallow’s most beautiful ballads, “She Was Young,” before shifting to “Falling Grace,” where Stewart’s natural and infallible rhythms support Swallow who sweeps into his signature broken time bass style. Scofield stretches out and shows his sense of invention and flair for concise solos in a fast take “Portsmouth Figurations,” a tune he first heard on one of his earliest album influences, Gary Burton’s Duster.
The most famous number “Eiderdown,” (also the first tune Swallow ever wrote and has been covered by the likes of Chick Corea, Bill Evans and Phil Woods), receives a spirited run through with Scofield, who says he once struggled to master these changes. He deftly travels up and down the guitar neck, preferring high notes, while Stewart takes an orderly, articulate solo. Another oft-recorded tune, the waltzy “Hullo Bolinas,” is taken at a brisk pace while the bassist’s playful borrowing from Cole Porter—”In F”—also features another measured, tasteful solo from Stewart. A reunion more interested in bringing fresh insights to well-known repertoire than pushing envelopes, Swallow Tales is the sound of masters at work. – Robert Baird
1. John Scofield – She Was Young
2. John Scofield – Falling Grace
3. John Scofield – Portsmouth Figurations
4. John Scofield – Awful Coffee
5. John Scofield – Eiderdown
6. John Scofield – Hullo Bolinas
7. John Scofield – Away
8. John Scofield – In F
9. John Scofield – Radio