John Scofield guitars
Larry Goldings Hammond organ, electric piano, sampler
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded live November 21, 2004 at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Engineer: Patrick Murray
Edited and mastered at Rainbow Studio by Jan Erik Kongshaug and Manfred Eicher
If you can’t stand the heat, then run—don’t walk—into the kitchen. That seems to be the message of Saudades, the unrelenting album by Trio Beyond. The title connotes a longing or melancholy in Portuguese. Yet the music bursts with conviction left and right, so the only thing one might long for is another two discs’ worth. At the heart of Beyond is Jack DeJohnette. His talents have orbited the sun more times than anyone can count, and here he initiates a project in honor of the great Tony Williams, who stepped off the Miles Davis platform in the late sixties to focus on his Lifetime trio, the guitar/organ/drums format of which is preserved here. Even in the absence of this information, the music clearly serves a time when fusion was not yet a sullied word, when its crosspollinations bore fragrances as fresh as spring. In the album’s official press release, DeJohnette humbly notes Williams’s “visionary concept of time and space,” but we can, of course, give similar credit to DeJohnette, a drummer without whom the landscape of modern American music would be much flatter. Fleshing out this homage are two phenomenal musicians in their own right, each with one eye trained to and the other fro. Keyboardist Larry Goldings is magic at the Hammond organ, often playing the parts of bassist and lead with two remarkably independent hands, while guitarist John Scofield fights fire with fire in his blistering yet welcoming style.
Indeed, once Joe Henderson’s “If” lights the match, there’s no turning away from the ensuing glow. Like this set (recorded live at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in late 2004) as a whole, it engages at both the level of performance and through its call to the fortunate listener by way of carefully chosen tunes. Inspiring and inspired, Goldings parallels Scofield’s flame trail like the DeLorean’s tire tracks in Back to the Future. The organist further offers up his original “As One,” which paves a spacy runway into the full (if brief) melodic shout of Larry Young’s “Allah Be Praised.” The title track, first of two cuts by the trio as a unit, proves a fast-moving vehicle for Scofield, who leads the way with staggering variety of tone and control, all the while getting jiggy with increasingly wild electronic enhancements. “Love In Blues,” also by the trio, is no less lovingly crafted, and finds Scofield holding his intense own over a mosaic of rhythms and voices, and finding intensity on his journey toward calm.
Williams’s spirit is apparent throughout, but gets his most overt props as composer of “Pee Wee” and “Emergency.” The first is a relatively tender chunk of goodness in which Scofield plays downright saxophonically, sustaining and clipping notes in kind. The boisterous second is rich as cream sauce—Scofield bringing the rise and Goldings the fall—and scales the cliffs of a spellbinding improvisational mountain. John McLaughlin’s “Spectrum,” given here a 16-minute treatment, is another thoroughly awesome adventure. The nature of DeJohnette and Scofield’s crosstalk, virtuosic yet free to bask in the groove, is a veritable master class of how musicians should listen to each other.
Our requisite ballad comes in the form of “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” by Broadway legend Jule Styne, in which Goldings treads a smooth and sultry line. It’s a soft reprieve after the sharp focus of Miles Davis’s “Seven Steps To Heaven.” DeJohnette steps up his game in a tune filled with propulsive depth and turn-on-a-dime changes, Scofield and Goldings trading expert handoffs all the while. Of course, Miles goes down all the better with a Coltrane chaser. The latter’s “Big Nick” gives more prime time for Goldings, who slingshots past the moon and back. Yet it’s DeJohnette’s perfect timekeeping that lingers longest on the palette, tasting of vibrant life and love for the moment.