Funky instrumentals and hip vocal performances grace Scofield’s groovatious tribute to the late, great Ray Charles. Backed by a deep-pocket rhythm section, Scofield delves soulfully into the rich harmonic territory of Charles’ signature classics. Using mainly just a touch of overdrive, Sco’s tone is pure and to the point as he quotes those familiar “A” sections and then cuts loose with cool extended solos over the fat grooves laid down by bassist Willie Weeks, drummer Steve Jordan (who also produced the album), and keyboardist Larry Goldings. Scofield could have maintained his purely instrumental approach on the entire record and it would have been cool, however, the six vocal tracks that spotlight the talents of Dr. John, Mavis Staples, and Aaron Neville, as well as John Mayer and Warren Haynes (both of whom also contribute on guitar—the latter on bottleneck no less!), alternately take you from the acid-jazz zone to a dynamic R&B realm complete with great horn arrangements (courtesy of Sco) that Charles’ himself could have dug. “Tribute” albums often miss their mark, but this one totally hits the bullseye. (Verve) —Art Thompson
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