As soon as you hear that one of your favourite fiery improvisers has made a disc that spotlights the mellow side of things, the fretting begins.
Will it be too soft? Are the tunes hokey? Where will the sparks come from? All those worries are rendered moot after a few spins through John Scofield’s latest album, a quartet date that indulges in balladry but keeps the interplay taut. Milking melody at every juncture, Team Sco—drummer Brian Blade, keyboardist Larry Goldings, and bassist Scott Colley—proves that its dedication to refinement doesn’t mar its interest in tension.
From a Carla Bley ode to suburbia to a Paul McCartney valentine, the song choices assist in selling the album’s thesis. No massive reconstructions are included; A Moment’s Peace teems with dulcet themes that the leader and his crew imbue with lithe solos. Perhaps the most tantalizing is Sco’s own rumination on Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away.” With Blade using mallets and Goldings designing sublime tinkles, the guitarist sashays along, turning his elastic notes into a pliable string of phrases that parallel the poignancy of Lincoln’s philosophical lyrics.
Indeed, one of the disc’s strong points is the way that Scofield renders myriad tones from his instrument. The whispered blues of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” has a sting, and it’s an overtly different texture from the bright ringing on “Johan” or the phat plucking on “Plain Song.” And, for sure, the gnarled electronics of “I Loves You, Porgy,” are different from everything else. Closing the disc with Gershwin’s jewel, the band lets us know that abstraction can be mellow, too. —Jim Macnie