Mike Scott, guitar
Joe Bagg, organ
Jason Harnell, drums
Steamers Jazz Club and Cafe
138 West Commonwealth Avenue
Fullerton, CA 92832
Mike Scott is perhaps the nicest guy one could ever meet. He couldn’t possibly be any nicer, and even if really nice people irritate you, he wouldn’t, for he possesses a genuine warmth and interest in the well being of others that would brighten anyone’s day. It’s very easy to have a real and intelligent conversation with him, for he puts everyone else at ease with his gentle demeanor and boyish charm. He could be Richie Cunningham, minus the neurotic tendencies.
It is this persona of his, combined with his deft guitar playing that has helped him to be a much-loved teacher of jazz at Fullerton College, as well as a sought-after sideman for artists that range from Monica Mancini to Seamus Blake to Stevie Wonder. Mike the person also comes though on the guitarist’s latest offering, Fallen Peach. Like the author of this subtle record, the music won’t hit you over the head with precocious braggadocio or mind-numbing complexity. The album reflects the warmth of Mike’s calm and sunny demeanor, yet it underscores a depth of thought and emotion that supplies substance to its great aesthetics.
The title track, Fallen Peach, is a children’s song for a new generation, with its themes of innocence and a familiar melody. Public Domain showcases a difficult bebop head which challenging chord changes to match, although Mike and organist Joe Bagg slice through the tune with a surgeon’s expertise. Lucky Nickel and The Introvert contain some tricky time signatures that keep the listener from getting too complacent, and they allow Joe to showase his ability to find just the right drawbar settings for every occasion.
The ballad So Much has a quiet heroism to it and is perhaps the most meaningful among so many songs with meaning; Mike’s solo is especially lyrical here. The straight eighth note tune Next Time has an urgency to it that distinguishes it from the other tunes and Mike acknowledges the sentiment with perhaps his most inspired playing. Little Victories is a bluesy ballad that brings out the best in Joe, who manages to throw in some truly greasy organ goodness on this one.
Through the entire album, drummer Jason Harnell strikes a perfect balance of accompaniment and counterpoint to the two chord players. The last track, Ambivalent Brahms, is a duet between Mike and guest pianist Josh Nelson, who took time off his busy schedule with Natalie Cole to record the tune with his usual stunning virtuosity.
All in all the record goes down easy the first time, but repeated listenings will bring greater reward to the palate as all the nuances begin to appear. It’s hard to see Mike Scott ever doing anything that would be antithetical to who he is, and he should be commended for making an album that is so characteristically him. The recording is indeed a reflection of the man, and in that way Fallen Peach pays its creator a huge compliment.
Mike’s CD release is this Thursday, featuring the same rhythm section of Joe Bagg and Jason Harnell. It is bound to be a great crowd with his students, fellow players, family, friends, and all those who love Mike in attendance. Bring a peach for Mike to replace the one that fell, you know he’d do the same for you.