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Critic's Choice



On last year's superb Hand Jive (Blue Note) guitarist John Scofield returned to the soul jazz he cut his teeth on. After years of working with jazz giants Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Joe Henderson, and Gerry Mulligan, Scofield settled for most of the 80s on an effects-heavy modern funk fusion style that ingratiated him with guitar geeks and contemporary jazz fans but alienated him from more hard-core jazz aficionados. However, when his affiliation with his current label began in 1990 he underwent a rebirth. Paired with the terrific saxophonist Joe Lovano, Scofield stripped things down and began to forge a highly distinctive brand of skewed postbop, strewing his music with chunks of funk, hard-swinging grit, second-line rhythms, a bluesy lilt, and endless reams of delirious lyricism. Lovano stepped aside on Hand Jive for a perennial Chicago favorite son, tenorman Eddie Harris. Under Scofield's leadership, Harris--best known for his funky work with Les McCann, his electronically altered playing, and his comedy routines--finds himself in the situation he's best suited for: riding soulfully insinuating grooves. With Larry Goldings offering fine piano playing and even better organ work, the record presents a thoroughly modern take on soul jazz, conveying feel-good emotionalism without adhering to greasy 60s organ-combo motifs. The presence of Scofield's working bassist Dennis Irwin simultaneously gives the music an ass-rumbling bottom and allows Goldings more freedom to dance around the keys. Simpatico drummer Bill Stewart rounds out the group, which makes its Chicago debut with this performance. Sunday, 8 PM, Chicago Jazz Festival, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 744-3315.

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