It is a rare artist that can play more than one style of music with true fluency, virtuosity and sincerity. John Scofield can, and he proves it on his new Verve release, uberjam. The album finds him confirming his reputation as a peerless jazz guitarist, while making groove and jam-oriented music at the highest level.
Born in Ohio and raised in suburban Connecticut, Scofield took up the guitar at age 11, inspired by both rock and blues players. A local teacher introduced him to Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall and Pat Martino, which sparked a lifelong love of jazz. Sco soon attended the Berklee College of Music, later moving into the public eye with a wide variety of bandleaders and musicians including Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Billy Cobham, George Duke, Gerry Mulligan, McCoy Tyner, Jim Hall, and Gary Burton. In 1982, he began a three-and-a-half-year stint touring with Miles Davis. Scofield’s compositions and inimitable guitar work appear on three of Davis’ albums.
Scofield began recording as a leader in the late 1970s, establishing himself as an influential and innovative player and composer. His recordings-many already classics-include collaborations with contemporary favorites like Pat Metheny, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Bill Frisell, Government Mule, and Joe Lovano. Through it all, the guitarist has kept an open musical mind.
Signing with Verve Records in 1995, Scofield released Quiet in 1996, A Go Go in 1997, Bump in 1999, and Works For Me in 2000. With the help of bandmates Avi Bortnick (guitar), Jesse Murphy (bass), and Adam Deitch (drums), Sco adds uberjam to his varied discography.
The 11 original songs on ьberjam showcase a group that explores diverse influences and styles while maintaining an irresistible groove. Launching with the eastern aura of “Acidhead,” easing into the languid “Tomorrow Land,” and ending with the super-funky climax of “Lucky For Her,” uberjam takes listeners on a modern journey of forward-thinking compositions and captivating improvisations by the Scofield band.
“I had to search high and low to find the right musicians to make this record with me. It took a long time to find them, but I know that these guys are the best I’ve played with in this idiom. It’s a pleasure to go to work every day.” Scofield elaborates: “I especially wanted to record with my band this time rather than make an ‘all-star’ record. The band has grown over the past three years and nothing compares with an entity that develops over time. We went into Avatar Studios and started recording immediately after a 40-concert tour and the band was really tight. With the additional inspiration of John Medeski and Karl Denson’s contributions, we were really cooking.”
Scofield continues: “Avi Bortnick is a rhythm guitar master. Between the two of us, we cover just about everything a guitar can and should do. It’s hard to find a player who likes laying in the groove while I play endless solos! When Avi expressed an interest to get into sampling a few years back, I never realized that he would quickly turn into the electro-magician that he is today!” Bortnick was born in Israel and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, studied at the University of Sao Paulo, and later completed a graduate program in architectural acoustics at the University of Florida, Gainesville. In fact, Scofield had to steal him away from his day gig at a California-based architectural firm.
Of bass player Jesse Murphy, Scofield says: “Jesse is the most intuitive and like-minded bass player that I’ve played with in a long time. He is truly eclectic musically; he knows and appreciates so many different styles. He has the perfect temperament for a bassist -- boundless energy blended with the directed focus of a traffic cop. That’s very hard to find and essential for a good band!”
When asked about the newest band member, drummer Adam Deitch, Sco says: “I’ve worked with all kinds of great drummers but I knew I found the right guy the first time I played with Adam. He’d been anchoring down the current version of the Average White Band, which tells you something about his groove. He throws ideas at you all night long.”
“We’ve had a great time playing for a broader and often younger audience with this material. They really know about music, they really listen, and their enjoyment is infectious. I get a real kick watching my audience dance while knowing that this holds up as jazz -- it’s not just dance music.”
Scofield says that “the music on uberjam may be the kind of music I feel most comfortable with. I started with jazz-rock 30 years ago and the great thing about this music is that it’s still evolving. When confronted with the ‘Who is John Scofield’ question, I like to oversimplify it by saying that ‘I like rock and jazz.’”
He continues: “Almost every interviewer asks me about my past experience with Miles Davis. I have to say that out of all the albums I’ve made, I think this is the one that Miles would have enjoyed the most. Miles’ spirit is in this music. He was always looking to take jazz to a new place.”
How I Got From There to Here in 704 Easy Words
When I first got into jazz -- around 1969, I came from playing R&B and Soul in High School. Jazz Rock was in its infancy stage and I was lucky enough to be around to experience the Golden Age of both Rock and Soul and see Jazz embrace that movement while I was trying to learn how to play straightahead Jazz. A lot of my early chances to actually gig were in various Jazz/Rock idioms. I got to play "real" jazz with Gary Burton and Gerry Mulligan but my real first "big time" gig was with the Billy Cobham/George Duke band. We got to play in gigantic concert halls and rock venues for excited people who were not necessarily jazz aficionados, but loved the music.
After that band ended, I stayed home in NYC and worked on playing acoustic jazz with my own groups and people like Dave Liebman. I also started an ongoing musical relationship with bassist Steve Swallow that continues to this day. As a jazz bassist and real songwriter (not just a composer) Swallow has influenced me as much as anyone.
In 1982, I joined the Miles Davis Band, answering the call of funky jazz once again. My stint with Miles made me sure that there really was a kind of music that was both funky and improvised at the same time.
After playing with Miles for over three years and making a few more records of my own, I hooked up with ex-P-Funk drummer Dennis Chambers, and we made a group that really utilized funk rhythms. Dennis and bassist Gary Grainger were masters of that "James Brown/ Earth Wind and Fire/ 70's thing". It was great having that underneath my tunes.
When I signed with Blue Note Records in 1989, I decided to explore more "swinging" avenues. I got together with my old Berklee School buddy, genius saxophonist Joe Lovano. We had a group and made three albums for Blue Note -- four counting a bootleg from Europe -- that are probably my very best "jazz" endeavors. Part of that can also be attributed to the magnificent drumming of Bill Stewart, who is as good a musician as I've ever met.
Then I felt the urge to get into a soul-jazz thing. I'd been really influenced by the music of Eddie Harris and Les McCann from the sixties. I invited Eddie to guest on the album Hand Jive. This was about the same time that Larry Goldings entered my music on Hammond Organ. With the collective possibilities of these musicians, I began to allow jazz to blend with New Orleans type rhythms to make the music groove.
Around this period, I also worked and recorded some with Pat Metheny -- one of the great guitarists. He and Bill Frisell are my favorite guitar players to play with and listen to. But then there's also Jim Hall and Mike Stern and Jim Hall and John Abercrombie and Jim Hall and Kurt Rosenwinckle and Jim Hall and Peter Bernstein... not to mention Jim Hall. And then there's also Albert King and Carlos Santana and Tom Morello and all the other ones I can't summon the names of right at the moment.
When I heard Medeski, Martin and Wood's record "Shack Man", I knew I had to play with them. They played those swampy grooves and had a free jazz attitude. These guys are serious conceptualists and are able to take the music to beautiful and strange places. I love what they did on AGoGo. In the last couple of years, I've heard some great young players that remind me often of what it is that I like so much about the music of sixties R&B.
Now I'm able to take that music and mix it with jazz all over again. I'm having more fun playing now than I ever have and I feel like I can finally really learn to play the guitar. Now, after having the chance to play with many of my musical idols -- I'm getting inspiration from younger musicians. I'm as excited about writing and playing music as I ever have been.
ТЕКСТ: John Scofield | johnscofield.com | 7 октября 2002 г.