Brian Scanlon Presents His Brain Scan!


BRAIN SCAN / SCANLON: Brain Scan.2,5 El Entrometido.1 Re-Entry.2, 3 Not Watching (for Nancy).2, 3 I Hear Something.1 HAGEN-ROGERS: Harlem Nocturne.1 SCANLON: Mark’s Time.1,4 My Right Foot.2 Scandalized 2,5 / Brian Scanlon, t-sax/a-sax; 1Tom Ranier, 2Ed Czach, pno; 3Andrew Synowiec, 4Larry Koonse, 5Avery Scanlon, gtr; Trey Henry, bs; Peter Erskine, dm; Jeoy de Leon, perc / no label or number, available for digital sales online

Saxist Brian Scanlon has had a busy, active career for the past 32 years, working in television, movies and as a sideman for some top names in jazz, the most famous of which is probably Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, but this CD is his very first as a leader and principal composer.

Not too surprisingly, the music is, like that of Goodwin’s band, mainstream but with some interesting twists. Just as the Woody Herman Herd of 1944-46 was a breakthrough in the formulation and arrangement of musical materials within a “swing” orchestra, so too the Goodwin band was in our time, and this is the aesthetic that Scanlon follows here. Meter is sometimes extended or even varied from bar to bar, the melodic lines are fresh and original without actually breaking any ground, and the whole endeavor is a wonderfully refreshing return to the basics of jazz in the post-modern-and-free-jazz era.

My sole caveat about the album is that guitarist Avery Scanlon’s playing veers a bit too far in the direction of rock music for my taste, as does the entire tune Re-Entry (sorry, but I generally despite jazz-rock). Otherwise, this is excellent, solid jazz that will delight you any time of year but particularly in the dead of winter (like now) or the heat of summer when you need a pick-me-up. Indeed, the second piece on this CD, El Entrometido, is one of the hardest-swinging pieces I’ve heard on a jazz CD in quite some time. It could easily be expanded on in orchestration and be part of Goodwin’s book. I also really liked I Hear Something, and I was delighted to find one of my favorite tunes of the swing era, Earle Hagen’s Harlem Nocturne, in an entirely new meter (or, actually, two mixed meters).

Mark’s Time is a particularly attractive piece, with a good, solid melodic line and some exquisite playing by veteran guitarist Larry Koonse. My Right Foot also has a nice medium swing beat to it, and a melodic line that sounds old thought it is not, with an excellent piano solo by Ed Czach. The leader’s solos throughout this set are fine, solid constructions that fit the surrounding material without necessarily providing anything new or exciting. The album closes with a ballad, Scandalized, which again sports a guitar solo that leans towards rock music.

Overall, however, this is a good CD, solidly written and played.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz


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