(Higher Octave – 2002)
by S. H. Watkins, Sr.
Never count out the old guys. Tom Scott was making grooving jazz before there was smooth jazz, and he’s back with a strong showing in New Found Freedom. Joined by guitarists Craig Chaquiso and Paul Jackson Jr., Scott starts out Feelin’ It right away, an uptempo groove for sure. Ann Nesby adds some sweet vocals to a track she also co-wrote You Are My Everything, a potential crossover track that brings in Billy Preston on B3 and Paulinho Da Costa on percussions. (Don’t You Wanna) Jam features some funky work from Craig T. Cooper on guitar and talk box, as well as a bluesy lead from Scott. Val Watson takes the vocal lead along with pianist George Duke on the Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis neo-classic track Can You Stand The Rain, and again on the sexy, saxy I wanna Be With You which also features Marcus Miller popping the bass.
The litany of stars rolls on as the hits roll out on this great CD. On the Simply Red hit Holdin Back The Years Scott combines his talents with guitarist Jonathan Butler, keyboardist Larry Dunn and bassist Abe Laboriel, as well as vocalists Watson, Michael Cooper (formerly of R&B band Con Funk Shun) among others. Yes, the track is jamming (it better be with personnel like that). Just a Little and The View From Here bring in Gerald McCauley on keyboards and Luis Conte on percussion, the latter also featuring aonther old-schooler Phil Upchurch on guitar. I guess Tom figured he couldn’t stop until he had used all the best old-school bass players out their (but Stanley Clarke) so he got Nathan East to sit in on Never Too Far From You.
Maybe the prettiest of them all is Everything must change. Daniel Rodriguez vocal rendering of this classic is mesmerizing. Scott’s sax is melodic and floating around and behind as Rodriguez silky lead glides through the track. Overall this is a very enjoyable CD; the performers a top-notch and the songs well chosen, performed and produced. Congratulations again to Higher Octave music for once again taking an artist and allowing them put out the music they are best suited for, this is Tom Scott the way he should be. Smoooooth…