John Scofield: Master of the guitar craft

09. märts 2004

Scofield is a rare artist that can play more than one style of music with true fluency, virtuosity and sincerity.

“I’m having more fun playing now than I ever have and I feel like I can finally really learn to play the guitar,” says John Scofield. “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.”
In his first visit to Estonia, John Scofield plays with the band of young musicians at Jazzkaar 2004 fusing energetic rhythms of hip-hop and trip-hop with jazz tradition. The guitarist explains: “The guys I’m playing with now are all late 20s, early 30s, and the funky jazz they like fits right in with what I do. It’s just this weird place in time, where I can play with some guys that are in their 20’s and it feels really right. It’s funky.”

One of the “big three” of current jazz guitarists (along with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell), Scofield’s influence grew in the ‘90s. Possessor of a very distinctive rock-oriented sound that is often a bit distorted, Scofield is a masterful jazz improviser whose music generally falls somewhere between post-bop, fusion, and soul jazz. Never quite fitting into the typical definition of jazz fusion, the guitarist has worked his favorite aspects of jazz, blues, rock and country into a personal style that is uncompromisingly original.
Whatever the context, Scofield has a commodity, which is becoming ever rarer in jazz: a personal voice. It’s a style that suggests the presence of some sort of rock-jazz continuum – when playing funk-fusion he sounds exceptionally intelligent and when playing jazz exceptionally down-to-earth.
A trailblazer of jazz in the 80s, a perennial poll winner, bandleader, master improviser, composer and major player in the music arena: John Scofield turned to groove music on his second Verve recording, “A Go Go”. So it’s not surprising that his current ensemble is much closer to rock group that to the typical jazz group. For many jazz purists John Scofield has went too far.
He explains: “It 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”.”
For Scofield his present new fusion seems to be natural. “It’s hard to put a level on my music, like jazz of fusion. It’s instrumental music that has one foot in the jazz tradition and the other in the popular traditions, especially rhythm and blues. You know, jazz musicians don’t live in a vacuum where they only hear jazz.”