Joe Henry has traveled far from his days as a rootsy storyteller. Beginning with 1996's Trampoline and its dark, impressionistic songs, Henry has experimented with spacious, dreamlike narratives and innovative instrumentation. Scar, his eighth album, retains the character-driven lyrics and the interest in cultural icons that have become his hallmarks, while adding some new twists. Produced by Henry and Craig Street (Cassandra Wilson, Chris Whitley), Scar gathers a staggering band of jazz geniuses who support but never overwhelm his often heartbreaking songs. Any album that can feature Brad Mehldau on piano, Marc Ribot on guitar, Brian Blade on drums, and David Pilch on bass comes with impeccable credentials; add Me'Shell NdegéOcello's funky bass playing on "Rough and Tumble" and "Nico Lost One Small Buddha" and, in a major coup, the legendary Ornette Coleman on alto sax on several other tracks, and you have nothing less than an event. Although each of these artists contributes distinctive touches -- Coleman's improvisations on "Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation" and its reprise are highlights -- Scar is still very much a Joe Henry album. He's not dabbling in jazz, nor are the jazz musicians dabbling in pop, even when radically reworking the hit that Henry wrote for his sister-in-law Madonna, "Don't Tell Me" (here retitled "Stop"). Rather, Scar is as great as the sum of its parts, and that is great indeed.