Jazz guitarist John Scofield gets funky—sort of | Bleader

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Jazz guitarist John Scofield gets funky—sort of

Posted By on 09.04.13 at 05:08 PM

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For much of the last decade guitarist John Scofield has regularly applied his abundant skills as one of jazz's most popular and talented improvisers and bandleaders to groove-oriented music—exploring New Orleans traditions or feet-friendly funk—never more than on his latest album Überjam Deux (Decca/Emarcy), a title that aptly references his likely demographic here. He brings that band—fellow guitarist Avi Bortnick, bassist Andy Hess, and drummer Tony Mason—back to town for a concert on Thursday at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Scofield composed nearly all of the tracks on his own or with Bortnick, but there's no missing their inspirations on many of the pieces. The opener "Camelus," for example, clearly borrows Fela Kuti's AfroBeat rhythm, but on his lengthy solo Scofield sounds entirely like himself, navigating the tune's key shifts with bluesy accents, elongated rock-flavored note bends, and warmly lyric shapes. "Dub Dub" unfolds over a slow reggae tune, which suggests Steely Dan playing a mashup of "Lively Up Yourself" and "I Can See Clearly Now," "Al Green Song" pays homage to the floor-rumbling production style of Hi Records mastermind Willie Mitchell, while "Curtis Knew" borrows a snippet from "Move On Up" in tribute to Curtis Mayfield.

Because Scofield is a dyed-in-the-wool jazz guy he can't help but invest more effort in harmony, a tactic that distinguishes the music from straight-up funk jams. The stuff never sounds too eggheady, but it definitely feels a bit softer than its inspirations. Below you can listen to "Boogie Stupid," a tune where Scofield's compositional hand is instantly recognizable in the second section of the piece.

Today's playlist:

Sergio Ricardo, A Noite do Espantalho (Discobertas)
Dylan Ryan's Sand, Sky Bleached (Cuneiform)
Tulipa Ruiz, Tudo Tanto (Pommelo)
Christoph Irninger—Pilgrim, Mt. Tongariro (Between the Lines)
Osvaldo Coluccino, Stanze (Col Legno)

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