John SCOFIELD – That's What I Say; J.S. Plays the Music of Ray Charles 2005

John SCOFIELD – That’s What I Say; J.S. Plays the Music of Ray Charles 2005

Jazz

With John Scofield, a big part of the fun is never knowing what the guitarist will do from one album to the next. He might provide an album that is abstract and cerebral, or he might come up with something funky and groove-oriented; That’s What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles is a perfect example of the latter. Featuring well-known guest vocalists who include Dr. John, Mavis Staples (as in the Staple Sisters), Aaron Neville and John Mayer, this tribute to the late Ray Charles is definitely one of Scofield’s more commercial projects — which isn’t to say that he shouldn’t be proud of the album. Commercialism isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it is tastefully done, and That’s What I Say is a tasteful effort that finds Scofield fluctuating between instrumental soul-jazz and vocal-oriented soul. Produced by drummer Steve Jordan, this 65-minute CD isn’t for jazz snobs, but rather, those who hold jazz and R&B in equally high regard — and people who fit that description will appreciate Scofield’s instrumental soul-jazz workouts on “Hit the Road, Jack,” “Busted” and “Unchain My Heart,” but will be equally receptive to the straight-up R&B singing of Neville on “You Don’t Know Me” and Staples on Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (one of the many country songs that received an R&B makeover from Charles). The disc’s only disappointing track is an instrumental version of Buck Owens’ “Cryin’ Time.” Scofield uses the Bakersfield sound honky tonk classic as a brief interlude to “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” but “Cryin’ Time” deserved more of his time than a minute and a half — and it’s regrettable that Scofield doesn’t stretch out on the Owens gem. But overall, That’s What I Say is a creative success for Scofield and the R&B and jazz artists who join him.
By Alex Henderson.
**
That’s What I Say, pays tribute to the legendary Ray Charles. It ranges from lesser-known Charles gems to some of his most signature tunes. Scofield crafts each tune in his own distinctive style, putting his indelible stamp on every performance.

Although sure to be criticized for cashing in on the Ray Charles bandwagon, jazzman John Scofield’s 2005 tribute release is also one of the most varied yet successful albums in the guitarist’s extensive catalog. Shifting from a big band/multi-vocalist approach for the classic “What’d I Say” featuring an all-star lineup of Dr. John, Warren Haynes, Aaron Neville, John Mayer and Mavis Staples trading verses (they all also take solo vocals on other tracks), along with longtime Charles saxist David “Fathead” Newman, to the lone guitar rendition of “Georgia on my Mind” that closes the disc, Scofield celebrates both Charles’ music and his eclectic approach to it. The stripped down instrumental version of “Crying Time” with only funereal organ accompaniment is perfectly offset by the following gospelized reading of “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” brought home by Mavis Staples’ explosive vocal. Teen throb John Mayer acquits himself admirably on vocals and guitar, singing and trading licks with Scofield on a rugged “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” and Dr. John brings New Orleans soul on a greasy “Talkin’ Bout You”/”I Got a Woman” medley. The horn section gets a workout on powerfully swinging instrumental takes of “Hit the Road Jack” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” Scofield’s quivering solos show moderation yet convey the music’s R&B roots, even when he’s turning up the heat on a rousing Medeski, Martin and Wood -styled, acid laced “Sticks and Stones.” Producer/drummer Steve Jordan finds the perfect vibe between jazz and R&B, and keeps the guest vocalists from stealing the spotlight. He provides the ideal framework for John Scofield’s fiery yet restrained playing and a fitting tribute to a jazz/R&B icon.
By Hal Horowitz. .
**
While Scofield and his band (which includes drummer Steve Jordan, who also produced the album) smoke on the instrumentals, and Scofield takes the spotlight with a solo performance of “Georgia on My Mind,” the record’s real pleasure comes from its guest stars. Everyone from saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman (one of Charles’s longtime band members) to singer/songwriter John Mayer lends a hand here, along with Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville, and Dr. John. “What’d I Say” is the album’s centerpiece: the treatment bears a tasty groove and boasts rotating vocals from the guests. On this tune and elsewhere, the musicians are in top form, and their true love of Charles and his music shines through.

Guitarist John Scofield joins the wake for the legendary Ray Charles (who passed away in 2004) with 2005’s THAT’S WHAT I SAY, a tribute album that mixes jazz with soul and traditional R&B. Scofield lays down stinging leads over funky rhythms on a wide variety of tunes, all of which were given definitive readings by Charles at some point.
**
The 13 tracks on That’s What I Say range from lesser-known Charles gems to some of his most signature tunes.  However, Scofield crafts each tune in his own distinctive style, putting his indelible stamp on every performance.  Scofield, a fan of Charles’ since childhood, showcases his well-known guitar mastery as well as his strengths as an arranger and interpreter of song throughout the tribute, particularly in his inventive horn arrangements.

Scofield’s core group for this album features Steve Jordan (Sonny Rollins, Rolling Stones), the album’s producer, on drums, Larry Goldings (Maceo Parker, James Taylor) on keyboards and Willie Weeks (Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder) on bass.  Scofield leads these stellar musicians, creating the solid groundwork for a star-studded guest list as they pay homage to Charles.

Scofield made inspired choices when inviting these collaborators to join in on this recording.  Dr. John brings some N’awlins soul to the medley “Talkin’ Bout You/I Got A Woman,” while Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and The Dead takes on “Night Time Is The Right Time.”  GRAMMY®-winning pop star John Mayer showcases the breadth of his talents by singing and playing guitar on “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” and  Aaron Neville’s inimitable voice elevates “You Don’t Know Me.”  David “Fathead” Newman blows smoldering sax solos throughout, and the incomparable Mavis Staples leads “I Can’t Stop Loving You” deep into the blues.

Other tunes selected by Scofield for this tribute include the party-like “Sticks and Stones” (propelled by Golding’s Hammond B-3 wizardry), the tender ballad “Cryin’ Time,” and the slow, steady groove of “Unchain My Heart (Part 1).”  That’s What I Say closes with Scofield’s reverent, solo acoustic interpretation of one of Charles’ most beloved hits, “Georgia On My Mind.”
**
John Scofield-guitar; Larry Goldings-piano, Hammond B3 organ, Wurlitzer, vibes; Willie Weeks-bass & Ampeg baby bass; Steve Jordan-drums, cocktail drums, tambourine, background vocals
With Special Guests:
Warren Haynes-vocals (2,11), bottleneck guitar (11); John Mayer-vocals (2,4), guitars (4); Aaron Neville-vocals (2,12); David “Fathead Newman-tenor saxophone (2,7); Dr. John-vocals (2,8), piano (8); Mavis Staples-vocals (2,6)

Manolo Badrena-percussion, Spanish speaking; Lisa Fischer-background vocals; Vaneese Thomas-background vocals; Meegan Voss-background vocals; Alex Foster-tenor saxophone; Earl Gardner-trumpet; Howard Johnson-baritone saxophone; Keith O’Quinn-trombone
**
John Scofield- (Guitar);
Warren Haynes- (Vocals, Bottleneck guitar);
Dr. John- (Vocals, Piano);
Manolo Badrena- (Vocals, Timbales, Percussion);
Aaron Neville, John Mayer , Mavis Staples- (Vocals);
David “Fathead” Newman , Alex Foster- (Tenor Sax);
Howard Johnson- (Baritone Sax);
Larry Goldings- (Wurlitzer Piano, Hammond B-3 Organ, Vibraphone);
Willie Weeks- (Bass);
Steve Jordan- (Drums, Background Vocals);
Lisa Fischer- (Background Vocals).
**
01. Busted (6:31)
02. What’d I Say (6:18)
Guest Vocals: John Mayer, Mavis Staples
Guest Musician: Dr. John
Artist: John Scofield, Dr. John, Warren Haynes, John Mayer, Aaron Neville & Mavis Staples
03. Sticks And Stones (3:44)
04. I Don’t Need No Doctor (4:30)
Guest Vocals: John Mayer
Artist: John Scofield & John Mayer
05. Cryin’ Time (1:33)
06. I Can’t Stop Loving You (4:48)
Guest Vocals: Mavis Staples
Artist: John Scofield & Mavis Staples
07. Hit The Road Jack (5:29)
08. Talkin’ Bout You / I Got A Woman (5:50)
Guest Musician: Dr. John
Artist: John Scofield & Dr. John
09. Unchain My Heart (Part 1) (5:05)
10. Let’s Go Get Stoned (3:29)
11. Night Time Is The Right Time (4:57)
Artist: John Scofied & Warren Haynes
12. You Don’t Know Me (4:57)
Artist: John Scofield & Aaron Neville
13. Georgia On My Mind (8:10)
14. Unchain My Heart (Part 2)
**


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