Drummer John Bishop, guitarist John Stowell and bassist Jeff Johnson will soon be celebrating two decades together as the trio they call Scenes
. Bishop founded the Origin label in Seattle in 1997, and by the fall of 2000 the three veteran Pacific Northwest musicians had combined in a group that has released six records on Origin.
For all the subtlety and intricacy of the group's interaction, their music commands attention because of sheer musicianship and their ability to apply rhythmic muscle without losing the chamber-music character of their work. In their most recent album, Destinations
, their approach to "Solar" by Miles Davis (or Chuck Wayne, if you prefer)* is a perfect example of Scenes' duality—the abstraction created in Stowell's guitar solo melding into the undercurrent of swing generated by Johnson and Bishop. The principle applies firmly in another standby, Schwartz and Dietz's "You And The Night And The Music," as it does in originals by the musicians. Johnson's loose, loping "Long Prairie" follows Stowell's opening "The Mandy Walk," with its hints of the melody of "Everything Happens To Me." Stowell wrote five of the album's ten pieces, including "Für Heide," in which he intersperses occasional chords in a gripping solo made primarily of single-note lines. Johnson's powerful bowing dominates his "T.I.O." Throughout that track Bishop manages to sound like two drummers, one using resonant tom-toms, the other, cymbals.
Scenes continues as one of the 21st Century's most consistently interesting small bands.
*(Footnote on "Solar:" In the fifties, guitarist Wayne wrote a piece called "Sonny" for trumpeter Sonny Berman. Underlining an assumption alive in jazz circles for years, Ira Gitler flatly asserted in the last edition of The Encyclopedia Of Jazz that "Sonny" was "appropriated by Miles Davis as 'Solar.'")