Following the Jazz Awards Ceremony were none other than blues singer Jon Cleary and guitar legend John Scofield. Louisiana based blues and jazz musician Jon Cleary alongside “Sco”, who in addition to performing at over two hundred concerts and participating in the recording of seventy seven albums since the dawn of his career in the 70s, were sure to be a forceful duo. The combination of Cleary’s warm and compelling blues vocals and Scofield’s immaculate guitar skills cooked up a stew of rich piney blues and psychedelic guitar shredding that evening.
Preceding the much awaited duo, who were also one of the leading acts during this year’s edition of Jazzkaar, was the issuing of the ninth annual Jazz Awards sponsored by Danske Bank and the Estonian Jazz Union. Winner of the Young Jazz Talent Prize was Estonian saxophonist Aleksander Paal, whose quartet played just before the awards. The Danske Jazz Award, the grand prize of the three awards to be presented that night, was awarded to Estonian jazz musician, Kadri Voorand, whose unique vocal style and active role in the Estonian jazz scene made her the top contender. As for the Jazz Promoter Award, dedicated to recognizing inspiring figures that have played an important role in developing Estonia’s music scene, the prize was awarded to beloved jazz teacher and musician Tiit Paulus whose life’s work has been dedicated to inspiring young people to pursue their passion for music.
As the Jazz Awards ended and Cleary and Scofield were introduced, there was a long and intense wait as the lights dimmed and the hostess cleared the stage. Applause quickly turned into a crescendo of rhythmic clapping which finally urged the two musicians to appear. The two artists strolled on stage with quiet confidence, and the mix of Cleary’s casual beige boater hat and Scofield’s baggy un-tucked shirt embodied that fluid, casual and laid-back grace that is unique to rock and blues music. The vibrant and powerful voice of Cleary cut through the theater room and its poignant charm was only rivaled by Scofield’s masterful picking of the guitar. In a 2011 review by Rod Fogg from London Jazz News, Cleary’s particular style was described as the following, “Pretty much every song is taken on a journey, starting in New Orleans before touching bases with calypso, tango, rock’n’roll and jazz.” There is no better way to describe the vibes that the vocalist brought to the stage, as every song Cleary and Scofield performed was its own unique and individual story rooted in a diverse blend of influences.
Generally speaking, blues is a quite a particular style of music, and while Cleary’s melancholy vocals and poetic lyrics from heartbreak to Jesus characterized the heart of the genre, it was Scofield’s wild impulsive guitar solos that transcended those classical dimensions of blues to an impulsive and jazzy variation of it. The dynamics of the duo were incredible, and it was unmistakable that the two men thoroughly enjoyed listening to each other play on stage. Cleary danced away at the piano, his foot tapping so passionate that it was audible over his smooth, warm vocals. No less passionate than the singer, Scofield mouthed every note he played on his guitar, leaning and moving into his tunes as he sang through his fingers with every strum and pluck. With a palpable ease, the duo demonstrated that, at its heart, blues is all about finding solace in sadness through music. Blues is a way of consoling those moments of longing and despair that everybody experiences, and through the lips of Cleary the entire audience was moved by the poetic words when he sang “I see your face in every flower, your eyes in stars above.” Ending their concert with a cover of the timeless classic “Fever”, the duo was met with a roaring applause from the crowd as they made their way offstage, clearly leaving a powerful impression on their listeners.
John Scofield & Jon Cleary
April 18th at 20:00 at Telliskivi Loomelinnak’s Vaba Lava Theater
John Scofield – guitar
Jon Cleary – piano, vocals