If musical taste is an index of sanity, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express must be among the healthiest people in the world. There's no sensible name for their kind of sound: instrumental rhythm and blues played with the rhythmic assumptions and technical resources of jazz and the open-mindedness of rock. That's not to call Tom scott's band still another example of the mechanical "jazzrock" practiced by groups as apparently distinct as the new Soft Machine and Tower of Power. No, the L.A. Express knows that belaboring your virtuosity is far from where it's at; that the real way to smoke is to be cool. The best art inevitably instructs as much as it gives pleasure.
The shocking immediacy of Scott's bleeding, golden tenor saxophone often obscures the extent of his ambition. Though he suggests King Curtis and Junior Walker, Fathead Newman and Wilton Felder, his playing is hardly mere imitation. Scott has instead forged a hip amalgam of these classic soul styles into a fresh and violently outspoken funk idiom. Indeed, Scott's one of the few young tenormen whose promise seems to me to justify placing his name near those of the masters.
The tunes that feature Scott on tenor (all but two) are the most satisfying on the album, especially the relatively simple stompers. "Strut Your Stuff," a Scott original, repeats a maddeningly restrained march line that's bound to turn up under your fingernails after a single listen. "Bless My Soul" and "Nunya" are somewhat less relaxed soul blitzes, though always supple, thanks to the ease of drummer John Guerin and bassist Max Bennett. Pianist Joe Sample (on apparent loan from the Crusaders since the Express's session work on Joni Mitchell's last album) turns in as much soloing as Scott; though he seems rather deliberately laid back, most sympathetic (and oddly so) to the amorphous balladeering of Scott's soprano on "Easy Life" and "Spindrift."
Originally published in The Boston Phoenix, April 30, 1974