Review: John Scofield - Piety Street
Released: March 31, 2009
Over the years, John Scofield has worked with a who's who of jazz and fusion artists. He has established himself as one of the top names in jazz guitar and is almost as well known outside of jazz circles as he is within. He's one of those artists who finds himself in the unique position of being able to try whatever he wants. While that position many times finds artists releasing ego-driven nonsense, Scofield chooses instead to make an album that is an interesting experiment, showcasing the music far more than the formidable players who made it.
Piety Street find the jazz guitarist and his band making bluesy renditions of gospel songs. More than a few times, it fails to break with the conventionality of straightforward blues, sucking much of the gospel elements he supposedly wanted to capture out of the music. However, Scofield and company more often find a place where jazz, blues and gospel sing in unison. Once or twice, it's downright amazing as on "It's a Big Army," a Scofield original that sounds like a rediscovered old-time gospel gem, but generally the album is fairly understated, illustrating the band's total trust in the music itself.
Piety Street is certainly not Scofield's best work, but it is an interesting change-up. Rather than either sticking to the tried-and-true or running off on some silly ego trip, he chooses to explore some of the music he loves even if it isn't the genre for which he's best known. He assembled a top-notch band to navigate this musical adventure with him and the result is, a few weak spots aside, a very interesting listen.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.