John Scofield | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

John Scofield 

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JOHN SCOFIELD QUINTET

John Scofield titled his last album Quiet, a word not often associated with the guitarist's rollicking thunder, or even with his fuzz-toned romanticism. On it Scofield restricted himself to the acoustic guitar for a series of sloping, lyrical solos while spreading several of his most attractive themes across a small but polished brass section. He deserves credit for concocting this musical balm (and avoiding the New Age wooziness that attends many such projects), but Scofield's heart rests with music far more rawboned and restless. The guitarist himself demonstrated as much when this quintet appeared in town in January, ostensibly to promote Quiet: the group played just two songs from the album, and on only one did Scofield part with his solid-body electric. Nonetheless, Scofield seems to have entered a new phase in his career--something like elder statesman. He nods to tradition in the instrumentation of this quintet, which features both frontline horn and acoustic piano (although in truth, pianist Kevin Hays adds little in either the ensemble passages or his solos). And instead of a well-seasoned contemporary--remember, this band once starred the tenor titan Joe Lovano--Scofield now spotlights a discovery of sorts in Seamus Blake, a talented and self-assured saxist in his mid-20s. Apart from that, the big news is the reunion of Scofield with drummer Bill Stewart, who anchored the guitarist's band from 1991-'95. Heard to best advantage on his own new CD, Telepathy (Blue Note), Stewart plays a lively, sometimes hyperactive beat, and in both his fills and the interior rhythms that enliven the basic ones, he displays enough imagination to light up two bands simultaneously. But he also plays with plenty of restraint, which has led writer Larry Birnbaum to describe him as "a boxer rather than a slugger" at the drums. Scofield himself no longer needs much explanation: with his trademark blend of post-bop progressivism, electric blues, and the rock music he grew up on in the 60s, he has created one of the two most individualistic and influential guitar styles in modern jazz (the other belonging to Pat Metheny). And he continues to solo with as much passion as command. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. Scofield also plays with Larry Grenadier Saturday, 1 PM, Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of John Scofield by Karen Kuehn.

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