Olukayode Balogun | Leeds, England | 04/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Trying to choose a favourite John Scofield album is like trying to choose a favourite niece or nephew. I'm pretty sure I've referred to one or two albums by the legendary jazz guitarist as "my favourite" along the way but like children, while they're all loved, they're all different. And again, like children, while there have been times where I've preferred some over others, it's really depended on the mood I was in at the time. One day I'll be playing a Scofield CD I haven't played in ages and I'll be like, wow! I actually really love this one!
Thus is the story of "Who's Who?" and the way I'm feeling today while I listen to it playing in the background, I'm prepared to award it the title of "overall favourite". Tomorrow, well, that's another day. Who knows what mood I'll be in?
This is very early Scofield, recorded way back in 1979. My sense is that he was looking back at the times he played with some of the greats; people like Gerry Mulligan, Gary Burton and Charles Mingus (and their style commonly referred to as "post bop"), while looking forward at the same time, to getting into some jazz fusion (not to be confused with smooth jazz); the kind of music he would become known for into the 80s and beyond. Luckily (for me), there is more of the latter on here than the former.
Hence, we have another album that is split down the middle (almost), definitely in terms of personnel and probably in terms of production too. On "Looks Like Meringue", "Cassidae", "Spoons" & "Who's Who?", Scofield is on electric & acoustic guitar; Kenny Kirkland is on electric & acoustic piano and clarinet; Anthony Jackson is on electric bass; Steve Jordan is on the drums and Sammy Figueroa is on congas and percussion. On "The Beatles" & "How The West Was Won", Scofield is on electric and acoustic guitar again, while Billy Hart plays the drums, Eddie Gomez plays acoustic bass and Dave Liebman is on soprano and tenor saxophones.
All selections are written by Scofield and are produced by Scofield, Mark Bingham and David Baker.
For my money, "Looks Like Meringue", "The Beatles", "Spoons", "Who's Who" and "How The West Was Won" are the most rewarding. They are easy-going, soulful and immediately accessible, and Scofield and his band provide some incredible solos. I especially love the way Kirkland echoes Scofield's end in his beginning on Looks Like Meringue; Liebman is beautifully mournful on "The Beatles"; I wish the refrain on "Spoons" could go on forever; "Who's Who" is a funky, spiky, complex little number that always delights and "How The West Was Won" is another one on which Liebman shines and it's a percussive, acoustic and consummately jazzy number. (And although the credits on the back of the CD would suggest otherwise, I definitely hear Kirkland playing on this tune).
The fast-running "Cassidae" is a good song but is a bit harder to get into than all the others. Once one is there though, it's equally fully rewarding.
This is not the album I would choose if I were recommending John Scofield to anyone thinking about trying him for the first time - I'd probably point them in the direction of Slo Sco: The Best of Ballads, Hand Jive or Works for Me - but I would definitely suggest they put it on their wishlist. If they like what they hear on any of those three, my guess is they're bound to come looking for this one, sooner or later. This is the good stuff. It's classic Scofield."
Michael Kydonieus | San Francisco, CA United States | 01/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a curious Scofield date. Although Sco's style usually varies from record to record, he tends to stay stylistically consistent on any one record. Who's Who is the exception to this rule. Half of the tunes are post bop, with the personnel sounding similar to the Dave Liebman Quintet Scofield was a member of at the time. The other half, with a different group of players, hints at the funk/fusion direction Scofield would take in the 80's. The post bop stuff is a harder listen--it took me a while to get into the harsh sound of the quartet. In contrast, the funk/fusion stuff is slick, just gorgeous. I'm probably being stingy with my star rating.... For those of you who don't know, Sco also recorded with Mingus, Miles, and Chet Baker. All those recordings are worthwhile, if you can find them. If you would like to read more reviews like this, check out JazzboNotes.com.