Scenes is a jazz guitar trio including John Stowell on guitar, Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop on drums. They've been playing and recording together for over nine years. This is their third recording on Origin Records. Each of these veteran musicians has worked with some of the biggest names in jazz. Stowell's career includes thirty years playing in duo with monster bassist David Friesen, as well as work with other artists including Art Farmer, Milt Jackson, Paul Horn, Tom Harrell, Don Thompson, Herb Ellis, Conte Condoli, Lionel Hampton and Bill Watrous, to name a few. Jeff Johnson has worked with Philly Joe Jones, Hal Galper, Bud Shank, Chet Baker, Lew Tabackin, Charlie Rouse, Mark Murphy and Tierney Sutton. Drummer Bishop has appeared on over 80 albums and worked with artists like Bobby McFerrin, Lee Konitz, Slide Hampton, Benny Golson, George Cables, Kenny Werner, Sonny Fortune, Bobby Hutcherson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Tom Harrell, and Steve Swallow, to list a few.
Rinnova is a collection of ten tunes, eight composed by Johnson or Stowell, and two by others. This straight-ahead group has a light and refined sound. Not boisterous, always measured and controlled, they none-the-less play with a spirit of exploration that turns every tune into a journey. Bishop's drum work especially impresses. While he may not have composed any of the music on this disc, his hand in shaping the work going on around him is striking.
At times he delves out of time in order to allow the ensemble to have the most freedom possible. This is especially poignant during Johnson's solo on John Taylor's "Ambleside." By concentrating on a butterfly cymbal technique Johnson is able to interweave a very rhythmic based solo in and out of Bishop's darts and dashes. The result is sublime. Throughout the disc Bishop is never merely a time keeper. Sometimes he swings, as on "Behind The Scenes," but only after setting up a series of ruminations on the events around him. He reacts more than interprets and Stowell and Johnson can't help but get marvelously caught up the freedom this kind of drumming allows.
Stowell has flawless technique and a sure way of guiding lines throughout harmonic passages to their most complete resolution. His nylon string guitar work on "Leviathan" is most especially impressive. He's more soulful on this instrument than when playing the electric guitar, and the ensemble responds accordingly. Johnson's bass work, whether on electric or acoustic, is always more than foundational. His lines imply more than state, which adds to the overall looseness of the proceedings. For those who want to be challenged, this recording will present plenty of opportunity to jump musical hurdles, but the joy of the repeated listening to fully understand this group's path will be worth the work.