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May 02, 2008

John Scofield always inspires me greatly

I get asked once in a while about my influences. Number 1 would be Jimi Hendrix, but in the next breath I need to mention John Scofield.

When I first started getting into jazz and fusion (a long time ago), there were quite a few guitar player I took notice of. One of them was John Scofield. I have many of his albums, but I still remember the first time I heard him. It was when he was playing with Dennis Chambers, Robert Aries and Gary Grainger on "Pick Hits". Wow, that blew me away. Now this wasn't really jazz, but more funk with jazz on top. I still love this stuff. "Blue Matter" is another great album from this era, and so is "Still Warm". The song "Protocol" is such an ultra cool song! Back in the day, we even tried to play that bad mutha with our band (with mixed results, to put it kindly...).

Scofield really comes from a rare breed. He is a completely mind-blowing improviser, in my opinion, and he is not limited to funky grooves. On the contrary, I find him to be one of the finest jazz guitarists I have ever heard. The most inspiring jazz combos with guitar I've ever heard have been a Scofield band.

It is interesting to follow his career too. He seems to do jazz for a while, then funk, then something in between, then jazz, then funk, etc. And there's nothing wrong with that!

Funky! With Avi Bortnick on rhythm guitar

Blue Matter

Listen to this funky band! Dennis Chamber is one bad mofo drummer - insanely groovy. Scofield is playing melodic yet funky and with great feeling. Notice how he makes every note count.

His strength, in my view, is that he has great taste. He NEVER over-plays. He's not on stage trying to impress you, by showing off fast bebop licks and such things. No, he plays with dynamics, with control, with taste and with experience. I hear some many guitar players trying to show off, and I just get tired of it all. Sco is different. When he plays, I get drawn into the harmonies and rhythms of his improvisations. He makes each note mean something meaningful musically speaking. Learn from this - make each note count!

Phrasing is key for improvising well. Scofield's phrasing is fantastic. He plays very tasty phrases that are so expressive and also with perfect timing of course.

Another reason I like him so much is because you can feel all that blues in his playing. He's approaching jazz from a blues background, and anything he plays just has that bluesy groove that I personally love. I have always been a blues man at heart, and that could be why I appreciate Scofield more than many "traditional" jazz guitarists. Scofield doesn't play "simpler" or less jazzy; it's more about the little things - bends, how notes are approached, pick attack, sound, etc.

The Chicken with Jaco Pastorius

This is pretty old clip, but it's real cool. Jaco was of course another master (I'll write another blog entry about him someday). Scofield is playing very bluesy on this clip.

Many jazz guitarists have a very boring tone, in my opinion. They are great at harmony and technique, but they sound boring because they play these fast 16th notes all the time, with hardly and pauses in between. They are impressive for sure, but guys like Scofield, who can do both that fast stuff as well as tasty phrasing gets my nod every time.

All Blues - jazz standard

Here John is playing some very creative lines over this classic standard jazz tune. See how he can play fast yet with great taste? I'll let you think about why I like Scofield's playing here so much more than any of the other guitarists on the clip.

There Is No Greater Love

This is a beautiful jazz tune that I like to play once in a while. Listen to Master Scofield show you how it's done. This is jazz guitar at its finest, in my opinion.

Scofield borrowed my amp

Yes, it happened back in Sweden at the jazz festival in Umea. The festival organizer called me, since John wanted a Mesa Boogie and I happened to have a Studio Preamp and 295 Stereo Power amp. The amp had a bad tube I think, and the sound engineer mentioned it to me later when I picked up the amp. I reckon John noticed too, but hopefully it wasn't too much of problem. When I saw him play that night with my amp on stage, I had a big smile the whole time. He played amazingly well as always, and he sounded just like he always does. In any case, it's not the gear that makes the player, as well all should know by now.

I wrote the settings for each knob and saved newspaper photos of Scofield playing my amp! I have lost them by now. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing ever that Scofield wanted to use my amp for a gig. Well, I still think that was pretty darn cool.

This fall, John Scofield is coming to Edmonton Jazz Festival, and I plan on going to see him. I don't think he'll need my amp this time! I don't have my Boogie amp anymore, and I think he uses Vox AC30 amps nowadays.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com


Posted by Robert Renman on May 02, 2008

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