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Reviews of CDs by Big Jack Johnson, John Scofield and Oasis

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Big Jack Johnson, "Roots Stew," (MC Records) - Johnson's claim that he's fluent in country and a wide variety of blues styles is no idle boast. His past two CDs on MC Records portray him as a multitalented player and singer who performs with lots of soul and humor. But "Roots Stew" goes a bit further, showing a different side of Johnson on almost every cut. All but one song is his, and if he strays a bit on the bawdy side lyrically that's part of the package. He's clearly a creative guy who can spray staccato bursts of notes at will or weave melodic guitar lines. Johnson has rhythm to spare while his slide guitar mews like a forlorn kitten or stings like a bee. In case a listener needs more, Johnson adds Hawaiian lap steel to the mix and pulls out the mandolin for some 1930s-style Tennessee blues. Wrap all of this in a gritty voice that's straight from the Mississippi Delta and the result is another fine batch of tunes from a deserving 2000 W.C. Handy nominee.
— Ames Arnold



John Scofield, "Bump" (Uni/Verve) — John Scofield is probably the best-established mainstream jazz musician to detour into the hypnotic funk of acid jazz. "A Go Go," his last CD, teamed him with alternative groove- jam darlings Medeski, Martin and Wood. His inventive playing complemented what had previously been a kicking rhythm section without a solo voice. "Bump" goes even deeper down that path, into serious James Brown/Sly Stone territory. Along for the ride are musicians for whom Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" — the wellspring of jazz-rock fusion — is ancient and revered history.

This music is a natural for Scofield, who came to fame playing electrified funk in Davis' 1980s comeback bands. Over the years, he has built a strong reputation as a straight-ahead player, recording a number of classic sessions for Blue Note. His style is assertive and melodic, built on fluent runs and a polished metallic tone. Almost exclusively identified with electric guitar, his one all-acoustic recording was treated by Verve as high concept.

A case could be made that "Bump" lacks the group complexity of jazz. That it is instead a postmodern architecture of syncopated rhythms and riffs through which Scofield's rock-derived solos clamber and soar. So what? This is sonic caffeine: music for working late, for the car, art openings, or parties with a touch of attitude. Categories are for the drowsy.
— Peter McElhinney



Oasis, "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants" (Epic) — Since Britain seems to have tired of Oasis, the brothers Gallagher have set their sights on the so far elusive grand prize — America.

But the land of Disney is no more ready to embrace these ex-pop darlings today than it was punk-rock back in 1977. Seems that we Yanks like our pop stars less talented. Britney Spears and Kid Rock will do just fine.

Just as well. If "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants" is the big push, then the first single, "Go Let it Out," had better be the silver bullet. At a time when Oasis needs a home run, they manage a single.

What stands out most on this CD is its wall of sound. Layers of guitar and keyboards are awash in effects with solos buried beneath solos. That sonic bliss wears off fast, though, when you realize Oasis' self-indulgent noodling only masks a lack of strong material.

The only hooks are flimsy, borrowed extractions from 30-year-old hit songs. No surprises here.
— Jeff Maisey, The Virginian-Pilot

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