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John Scofield - Country For Old Men / Buffalo News review

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John Scofield, "Country for Old Men" (Impulse). Certainly one of the wittiest jazz album titles of the year. Its full provenance is this: obviously an allusion to the Coen Brothers' Oscar-winning film "No Country for Old Men," taken from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name which got its title from W. B. Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium." You've got to love a title like that, especially when it's a joke the musicians are making about themselves. The album is reasonably delicious. Ever since Ray Charles so dramatically figured out how to make "modern sounds in country and western music," country repertoire has been a congenial home for musicians whom no one would suspect being comfortable there. John Scofield is, in so many ways, the representative jazz guitarist of our era, which is why it's a delight to have a country repertoire record by him, full of country favorites. Scofield makes sure you know on the very first tune that he's not kidding about "going country" if he wants to. His opener', George Jones' "Mr. Fool," would be a comfy fit for a very hip lounge in Nashville. After that, forget it. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Die" is presented, thank God, without tears. It's straight ahead jet-propelled jazz in Scofield's best angular, even abstract mode, with Larry Goldings on piano and organ and bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart charging ahead with fierce velocity. Golding's solo devolves into electronic abstraction. Scofield says "Instead of ‘three choards and the truth,' it's two chords and the truth. We took that and took it into one chord and the truth." Those are the two poles – down home and completely abstract – the band travels between and the journey is something else. How about "Red River Valley" in which, admits Scofield, "we stole the top from Johnny and the Hurricanes' ‘Red River Rock'? Are you ready for Dolly Parton's "medieval" "Jolene" as a post-Coltrane modal beauty? This is jazz eclecticism for delight's sake and it's pure. Three and a half stars out of four. (Jeff Simon)