John Scofield
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After playing on albums by Billy Cobham (1974-76) and Charles Mingus (1977), Ohio-born white guitarist John Scofield (1951) embarked on a solo career as a purveyors of funk-jazz fusion with East Meets West (august 1977), a trio session highlighted by the lengthy Public Domain and V., Live (november 1977), for a piano-based quartet that indulged in the 15-minute Gray and Visceral, Rough House (november 1978), with Rough House for another piano-based quartet, and Who's Who (1979), with How The West Was Won. While he was playing in Dave Liebman's group (1978-80), Scofield formed a trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum that helped refine both his playing and his composing via Bar Talk (august 1980), with Fat Dancer, Shinola (december 1981), with Yawn, and the live Out Like a Light (december 1981), with the spectacular Holidays.

While he was playing with Miles Davis (1983-87), Scofield toyed with different formats: a quintet with altoist David Sanborn, trombonist Ray Anderson, synthesizer and drums for Electric Outlet (may 1984), containing his signature tune Pick Hits; a quartet with electronic keyboardist Don Grolnick, electric bassist Darryl Jones and drummer Omar Hakim for Still Warm (june 1985), containing the lyrical Still Warm and the quirky Techno and Rule Of Thumb; a quintet with keyboards, bass, drums and percussion for Blue Matter (september 1986), containing the funky Blue Matter and Time Marches On; the same quintet plus keyboardist George Duke for Loud Jazz (december 1987), that further reduced the length of the pieces (Dirty Rice, Spy Vs Spy); an organ-based quartet (Don Grolnick on organ) inspired by New Orleans' rhythm'n'blues for Flat Out (december 1988). Best was the piano-less quartet a` la Ornette Coleman with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette that recorded Time on my Hands (november 1989), and inspired Scofield to compose Wabash III, Stranger To The Light and Farmacology. And Lovano stole the show on Meant To Be (december 1990), with a new rhythm section (bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Bill Stewart) and inventive solos in Big Fun and Go Blow. This was high-caliber funk-jazz, despite the fact that Scofield refrained from venturing into group improvisation or the kind of suites favored by progressive-rock.

If James "Blood" Ulmer came from the free-jazz tradition, Scofield stood solidly in the bebop tradition, but filtered through his roots in white rhythm'n'blues, his upbringing in fusion jazz and a pervasive rock influence on his guitar technique. At the same time, Scofield quickly matured as a composer in a Mingus-ian vein.

Thus Grace Under Pressure (december 1991), featuring fellow guitarist Bill Frisell, Haden and drummer Joey Baron, excelled at both straighthead jazz (Grace Under Pressure) and at jazz-rock on the brink of insanity (Scenes From a Marriage). Scofield was beginning to feel more comfortable with longer and more eccentric tracks also with the Lovano-led quartet on What We Do (may 1992), with Camp Out, Call 911 and Why Nogales.

Scofield moved towards an old-fashioned sound with the funk-soul-jazz fusion of Hand Jive (october 1993), featuring veteran soul-jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris as well as organist Larry Goldings (Do Like Eddie, Golden Gaze, Dark Blue), and Groove Elation (1995), on which Goldings became Scofield's alter-ego (Carlos).

Perhaps tired of the funk-jazz routine, Scofield began to experiment outside his regular territory. Quiet (april 1996), Scofield's first acoustic-guitar album, featuring tenorist Wayne Shorter, bassist Steve Swallow and many guests, was a collection of impressionistic vignettes. A Go Go (1998), a collaboration with Medeski, Martin & Wood, emphasized the groove. Bump (1999) featured rock keyboardist Mark DegliAntoni of Soul Coughing and other players from different genres, Works for Me (january 2000) was a more traditional bebop album with a super-quintet featuring alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Billy Higgins. It was unusual for Scofield in that the musicians were given room to improvise (Loose Cannon, Six and Eight) instead of being constrained by Scofield's tight arrangements. Uberjam (september 2001) and the inferior Up All Night (december 2002) wed that bebop spirit with the contemporary sounds of rock, soul, hip-hop and drum'n'bass music. The live trio session EnRoute (december 2003) with bassist Steve Swallow and Stewart was a continuation of pseudo-bop concept of Works for Me, this time highlighted by Hammock Soliloquy.

After John Scofield (september 2001) and Up All Night (december 2002), it took a decade for Scofield to release another studio album, Uberjam Deux (january 2013 - EmArcy, 2013), featuring Avi Bortnick (guitar and samples), Andy Hess (bass), drummers Adam Deitch and Louis Cato, and John Medeski on organ, electric piano and mellotron.

Past Present (march 2015) featured Larry Grenadier (double bass), Bill Stewart (drums) and Joe Lovano (tenor sax).

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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