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John Scofield jazzes up Purdue crowd at engagement
04/27/2005 4:10 PM EST

On Friday, April 22nd, at 8:00, at Loeb playhouse, The John Scofield trio took the stage before a ravenous, wide-eyed audience. John Scofield began to play “trio blues” on his Epiphone Dot guitar, while Steve Swallow played electric bass and Bill Stewart conveyed the beat on the drum set. Scofield himself, seems to be a jazz fusion guitarist, in that, he combines the melodic arpeggio ideas of Wes Montgomery with rock and blues. To complement his style, Scofield had lined the floor with a series of effects pedals, (also called; “stomp boxes”), on a pedal board. Some of the effects he used are as follows: a tape delay, (which allows him to record a short riff or rhythm track and repeat it whilst playing over it), a distortion pedal, which cuts up the signal quickly, and also a delay, a fuzz, (a type of dirtier distortion), and an effects processor with several standard guitar sounds on it.

John Scofield is one of the three present-day guitar greats. Scofield grew up in Wilton, Connecticut. At age eleven he had picked up the guitar, and played in rock bands during high school. After studying at Berklee, John began recording and playing gigs all over New York. After touring with Miles Davis for three years and appearing on three Davis albums, he formed his trio. His newest album, entitled; EnRoute, features his live performance skills. Stewart, (who is self taught), began as a pianist and later began attending jam sessions in Manhattan and landing a spot on a Scofield record. Swallow studied piano and trumpet at an early age and picked up acoustic bass when he was 14. He studied composition at Yale and later began to tour New York City where he met Scofield.

Scofield plays with a hot style, utilizing very fast arpeggios, but with excellent phrasing, incorporating just the right amount of silent notes, (rests). John keeps his feet planted and allows his upper body to sway about with the beat. Scofield somehow manages to show a great amount of technique, while avoiding a “flashy” style. As far as his speed and proficiency, they could only have been matched by Wes Montgomery himself. Steve Swallow seemed partial to being laid back and acted as a foil for Scofield, showing the cool side of jazz. Swallow plays very few notes, but employs octaves and infuses his electric bass with acoustic bass technique. Less animated than Scofield, Swallow seems less excitable, but equally as talented. Stewart drives the trio, and is a force to be reckoned with, especially on the snare. Like Swallow and Scofield, he avoids being flashy with his technique and solos. Stewart makes use of eclectic beats while managing to keep the momentum. Stewart and Swallow seemed to fall back most of the time so as to allow their guitarist to shine, (which is their duty as a rhythm section).

The tunes played were as follows: Trio Blues, At Long Last Love, A Go Go, New Orleans, Alfie, A new tune, (which hadn’t a name), Worst Hangover, Over the Big Top, and Dexterity by Charley Parker. Most of these songs were composed by Scofield. Many, if not most of the songs were played at a fast tempo, some were more moderate. The tempos were purposely rapid in order to showcase the talent of the band.

The solo order seemed to be consistent. Scofield would solo at length followed by Swallow, and finally Stewart, then at the culmination of the drum solo, Scofield would begin again. An occasional trade-off took place between the drums and the bass, but, for the most part, the order was established. When Scofield wasn’t playing his guitar he stood off to the side, and listened to the other members. All three members worked well together, improvised well, and played off of each others solo ideas. The styles played were; fusion, post-bop and funk. After an ovation of thunderous applause, the trio played a legitimate encore.

My initial impression of the trio was that they were rhythmically very tight and surprisingly fresh-sounding despite their years. Many older jazz musicians get caught up in emulating their idols and refuse to develop a unique style all their own. This is not so with Scofield. In fusing jazz with rock and funk, he not only has developed a unique style, but also he is able to relate jazz to a younger audience by fusing it with a younger style of music. Upon hearing Scofield’s first solo, I was completely blown away, I’ve never heard a guitarist quite like him. I’d like to think that the jazz history class would truly have enjoyed Scofield, as a post-bopper as well as an innovator on his instrument.

This concert review was written by Peter Burke, co-founder of Musiqtone and the chief head of Yellow Brick Records. You can reach Peter at his e-mail address at peterburke@musiqtone.com.

(C) 2005 Musiqtone. All Rights Reserved. Commercial use of this article is strictly prohibited without explicit written permission from the author and non-commercial use is permitted with citation of author and source only by the third party using this review.