Despite the absence of Joe Sample and Larry Carlton, Tom Scott's L.A. Express remains very Crusaders-influenced on Tom Cat – a highly accessible jazz-funk-R&B date that, as commercial as it is, leaves room for inspired blowing courtesy of both the leader and sidemen like electric guitarist Robben Ford and keyboardist Larry Nash. Sweaty, hard-hitting jazz-funk is the rule on such down-home grooves as "Good Evening Mr. & Mrs. America & All the Ships" and "Day Way," which allow the players to let loose, blow, and say what needs to be said. "Love Poem" is a pleasant, likable piece of delicate mood music (but not "Muzak"!) that features wordless vocals by pop-folk singer Joni Mitchell and has a slightly Flora Purim-ish appeal.
It seems strange that the music on this CD was not released initially until 1980. Trumpeter Lee Morgan had had an unexpected hit with "The Sidewinder," so his more challenging recordings were temporarily put aside. As it turns out, this was one of Morgan's better sets from the 1960s and he had gathered together quite an all-star cast: altoist Jackie McLean, trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Art Blakey. They perform "Rigormortis," McCoy Tyner's "Twilight Mist," and three of the trumpeter's originals, including the title cut. The advanced hard bop music still sounds fresh decades later despite its initial neglect.
Although Tom Scott recorded one throwaway after another in the 1980s and '90s, he's still quite capable of recording a decent album – which he proved on his 1992 straightahead date Born Again and his 1996 reunion with the L.A. Express, Bluestreak. Spontaneity and inspired blowing are the rules this time. Instead of pandering to smooth jazz radio, Scott lets loose and plays from the heart for a change. The Angelino (who's heard on tenor & soprano sax and flute) avoids smothering this very 1970s-sounding jazz/R&B/pop date with production and gives ample solo space to both himself and such Express alumni as Joe Sample (electric keyboards) and Robben Ford (electric guitar). A forgettable version of Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" never really takes off, but that's the only really disappointing song on Bluestreak – an album that was long overdue.