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Crate Digger’s Gold – Tom Scott And The L.A. Expression

March 4, 2018

I recently dug up a pristine LP of this 1974 classic for a buck – damn I love crate digging. Snuck out before a snowstorm to Wayzata Brew Works for a record show with my bride. Dug for an hour and spent as little as a dollar and as much as fourteen dollars (but that is still cheaper than new). We shared a stout, sat at a lakeside table, inspected and tabulated. Total damage was seventy-one dollars for seventeen LPs. The snow was starting to fall so we headed home. It was a good afternoon to spin some wax at home and watch the snow flakes fall.

Whenever I have a new stack of wax I like to start with the cheapest album that looks in the best shape. Tom Scott And The L.A. Express was the first draw.

I was a big fan of the band’s Tom Cat. I first met the band through Joni’s 1974 Miles Of Aisles. I don’t know why I have never owned this album. I have seen it in the crates for forty years. Its provocative cover, for the time, is chaste by today’s standards, often caught my eye – but I never pulled the trigger. I am in a Joni state of mind these days after having just read a quality biography about her: Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe.

The band is led by reed man Tom Scott. Per Wikipedia, Scott’s best-known works are the theme songs for 70s TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and The Streets of San Francisco. His soprano sax solo and fills are on the 1975 No. 1 hit single “Listen to What the Man Said” for Wings. Not bad for a session cat.

In the 70s, a first call session musician could get a respectable record deal. Tom Scott And The L.A. Express were as first call as you could get. Their Joni gig was big time: Court and Spark was multi-platinum and was a Grammy nominated album of the year in a time when that mattered (1975). She lost to Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale. No disgrace in that loss.

Out of this heady time for a jazz band, came this LP. What a line up (thanks again Wikipedia): Max Bennett – bass (member of the Wrecking Crew), John Guerin – drums and percussion, Larry Carlton – guitarist and Joe Sample – keyboards (the latter two were also members of the group The Crusaders).

This is funky pop jazz with greazy grooves.The kind of stuff that could be the theme song to a TV show (as noted above, Scott was capable of that). These were the slickest studio cats in L.A. in the mid to late 70s.

Side One is funky and bluesy. It is like instrumental Steeley Dan, but looser. Side two opens with a romantic ballad – Tom Scott invented the stuff Kenny G ultimately ruined. After the ballad, side two continues in the funky and bluesy vibe of side one. Throughout there are great solos and jams. This is a group of guys who are very comfortable with each other. In the wrong hands this pop jazz could turn into schmaltz, but in the hands of the L.A. Express, it turns into R&B jazz fusion soul magic.

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One Comment
  1. I love this stuff. Great pick up.

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