April 2006

Tom Scott - Bebop United
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild/Telarc - MCGJ1021
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Tom Scott’s pleasant sax playing was featured on countless pop sessions in the mid-1970s. His jazz recordings with his own group, the L. A. Express, while a little gutsier than the solos he played on Carole King’s "Jazzman" and Paul McCartney’s "Listen to What the Man Said," still went down smooth and easy. I had forgotten about him when he turned up on Standing in the Shadows of Motown playing on a couple of Junior Walker tunes. To my surprise, there was some grease in his playing.

An even bigger surprise is Bebop United, a live disc Scott recorded at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, a music-education and urban-outreach center in Pittsburgh. Scott lined up an impressive septet to play his arrangements of jazz standards and three of his own compositions. Scott gives plenty of solo space to the other musicians, who acquit themselves very well. Trumpeter Randy Brecker and trombonist Jay Ashby are featured to especially fine effect on "His Eyes, Her Eyes," a ballad by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Michel Legrand. Phil Woods raises the energy level on his two guest features, and Scott himself plays with his usual melodic grace, but adds more fire and grit.

Pianist Gil Goldstein and baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber round out the list of sturdy soloists, and bassist Duane Burno and drummer Willie Jones help Goldstein keep the foundation strong. The excellent live recording has tremendous space and depth and helps reinforce the wish that Scott would return to this kind of jazz more often.