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.
Alex Henderson - AllMusicGuide
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