Picks and Pans Review: Time of My Hands

updated 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

John Scofield

Guitarist John Scofield has had little leisure time in recent years. Since completing a three-year stint with Miles Davis in 1985, he has been burning up the frets as leader of a popular funk-oriented band and as one of the most in-demand session musicians in jazz. But this new album, by far his best, captures Scofield in a mood to kick back and indulge in some serious reflection.

Though Scofield has always wielded a mean ax, he has strait-jacketed himself on many previous outings as a leader by using sidemen stuck in formulaic pop grooves. Here Scofield matches wits with three jazz greats. Bassist Charlie I laden and drummer Jack DeJohnette bring an easy rhythmic feel to the occasion while tenor and soprano saxophonist Joe Lovano complements Scofield's blues-tinged playing with his warm, luminous tone.

The tunes, all Scofield originals, have hummable melodies but are full of harmonic and rhythmic surprises. "Wabash III" is an up-tempo ditty with straight-ahead changes and a touch of bluegrass. The band struts to a Tex-Mex beat on "So Sue Me" and gets funky on "Fat Lip." Scofield and Lovano approach the gentle melody of "Let's Say We Did" like two wistful choirboys tiptoeing home after an unsuccessful trip to a brothel. "Since You Asked." the gem of the session, features an angular melody and stutter-step rhythms reminiscent of Thelonious Monk.

Scofield's soulfulness may prompt you to turn up the volume on your stereo and reach for your air guitar. But the real glory of his music is his rhythmic subtlety and ability to turn a phrase like a man with a horn. Time on MY Hands offers convincing evidence that Scofield is a jazz musician whose time has come. (Blue Note)

From Our Partners