Guitarist John Scofield has had a storied career since the early 70s, first as a guest player with everyone from Charles Mingus and Chet Baker to Gary Burton and Miles Davis, then starting in 1977 a prodigious run of solo albums that run the gamut between fusion, acid jazz, funk, and experimental. He’s collaborated with Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Govt Mule, Pat Metheny, and recorded covers albums dedicated to everything from soul, country, and rock and roll.
On the 70-year old jazz guitarist’s latest, simply titled John Scofield, Scofield makes an all solo guitar release peppered with both original compositions and covers of artists that influenced him in his formative years. Using just a looper pedal John Scofield creates a sparse yet effective solo album of depth, breadth, and heavy with music history.
John Scofield has always found a balance between restrain and chaos in his playing. From the fresh from Berklee perfectionism of his early solo albums to the rambling funk/psychedelic looseness of albums with Medeski, Martin, and Wood, his trio with Steve Swallow and his blues/funk excursions with Larry Goldings, John Scofield serves no one master throughout his career. He serves them all. So releasing his first ever solo guitar album performing with just himself, his guitar, and a looper pedal seems like the perfect combination. Playing off his own singular guitar lines, both in original compositions and covers of artists as varied as Keith Jarrett, Hank Williams, and Buddy Holly.
“Coral” is quiet and beautiful, giving a regal feel to Keith Jarrett’s classical-meets-jazz composition. Chet Baker’s “It Could Happen To You” gets the Scofield treatment in a big way here. You can almost imagine a smoky downtown club with ice tinkling in glasses as Scofield lets it rip on stage. There’s a real swing to this track. And Scofield seems to be channeling Dr. John more than The Clash with his take on “Junco Partner”. Scofield’s original compositions here are just as stunning, with “Honest I Do”, “Mrs. Scofield’s Waltz”, “Since You Asked”, and “Trance De Jour” being highlights. They range from guitar balladry and odd funk trips.
This nearly hour long set by John Scofield is the perfect companion for a night at home with the lights down low and the week in the rearview. At 70-years old Scofield doesn’t seem to be slowing down in the slightest. In fact, he sounds as good and relevant as ever. John Scofield is essential work from one of our finest American guitarists and composers.