Dec. 3 at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club: Legend John Scofield performs tunes from new album with his trio

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John Scofield Trio by Nick Suttle
John Scofield Trio. Photo/Nick Suttle

If you go:

Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club’s Website
Address: 135 Congress Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

When it comes to jazz musicians who are still performing and exhibiting their craft, very few have as detailed of a resume as John Scofield. With his skills on guitar, he’s played with the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Jaco Pastorius, Mavis Staples and Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead, just to name a few. In fact, the name of his new album, “Uncle John’s Band,” released October 13, comes from one of the Dead’s famous tunes and he also did a rendition of it for one of the record’s tracks.

He had drummer Bill Stewart and double bassist Vicente Archer serve as the rhythm section for the full-length release and they’re going to be coming to New Hampshire this weekend. Specifically, they’re going to be performing at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club in Portsmouth on December 3 starting at 7:30 p.m.

We had a talk ahead of the show about the making of “Uncle John’s Band,” his thoughts on the current state of jazz, what drives him these days and what attendees can expect from the upcoming gig. 


Rob Duguay: Along with the title track, your new album features renditions of other rock songs including Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Neil Young’s “Old Man.” What inspired this specific approach during the creation process for the album? Were you, Bill and Vicente just looking to have fun with it all rather than sticking to a certain format or structure?

John Scofield: I think it’s always important to have fun. This record is really about us playing together and playing material that we like with nothing being specific. Those rock tunes are our jazz versions of them, there are a few standards and there are also some originals of mine so it’s kind of all over the place in that way. I just tried to find stuff that I like to play that’s different from the normal jazz guitar trio material and the rock tunes are songs that I’ve always liked. We found a way to play them where we could really improvise and have sections where we could do our thing, our jazz thing, so it worked in a jazz way as well. 

RD: From listening to it, it definitely sounds like you three pulled that off. How would you describe the experience of making the album at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, New York? I know Parliament-Funkadelic has done some stuff there along with a few modern pop artists.

JS: This was my first time at Clubhouse. I’ve recorded in a lot of studios around the New York area, sometimes in New York City and other times outside of the city. Clubhouse is really great and one of the reasons why we really like the place is, and this is kind of technical, but it’s really important to get a great drum sound. The way you get that when doing jazz is by setting the drums up in a room that has its own interesting acoustic sound, it has a vibe. Drums are different because there are all these mics that are getting the air where with guitar and bass you can just put a mic on the amp. 

Clubhouse has a great sound in the room, there’s really nice people up there and Rhinebeck is a beautiful little town. The studio is located in an old colonial house and we stayed right there so we were all together all the time. We’d eat together and it’s a nice place to share music.

RD: Sounds like it. Jazz as a whole is in a really interesting place these days where it seems like the style is in a post-fusion era and it’s intertwining itself into hip hop and R&B with artists like Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington and bands like BadBadNotGood leading the charge. What are your thoughts on this direction jazz is being taken in?

JS: It’s fine with me, I’m certainly no purist and jazz has never been a pure artform. Jazz during the very beginning was Black America’s version of this amazing way to take existing music and mess with it and I think that’s what the music allows. With Kamasi [Washington], [Robert] Glasper and others using hip hop, it’s just a natural thing. Hip hop to me, especially with the beats, is coming from funk and the funk revolution of the 1970s with James Brown. Those rhythms are what appealed to Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and their first fusion records, so to me it’s the same kind of thing. 

RD: I totally see what you mean. You’ve had an extensive music career since you started out during the late ‘60s and you’re one of the most accomplished musicians alive today, so what drives you these days? What keeps the imagination moving and the creativity flowing?

JS: What keeps me going is that I love to play and I feel like I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve gotten older. I’ve gotten better at doing what I want to do on the guitar and I just have so much fun with it. I can’t imagine life without performing and playing music with great musicians like I’ve been getting to do. For me, it’s such a joy, more than ever actually. 

RD: Awesome, I’m glad you feel this way about your music. For the upcoming show at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club this Sunday, what are your thoughts going into it? Do you, Bill and Vicente plan on just playing the new album front to back, or do you three plan on having a more improvisational approach?

JS: Well, we definitely have a more improvisational approach in that a lot of the tunes are so different every night, especially “Uncle John’s Band” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”. We all incorporate free improvisation in certain areas where we can go any old way we feel like. Although we will be primarily playing songs from the new record, we’re going to be doing some other stuff too because we have a pretty big repertoire outside of that material. You never know what’s going to happen, I think every night is really different, that’s what makes it interesting and that’s what’s really part of the jazz tradition.


 

About this Author

Robert Duguay

Robert Duguay is a freelance writer who covers the NH music scene.