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John Scofield opens Adelaide International Guitar Festival

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Friday August 17, 2012

From The Australian

John Scofield opens Adelaide International Guitar Festival
By: John McBeath

ADELAIDE – After an inauspicious and loss-making beginning in 2009, the Adelaide International Guitar Festival has gone from strength to strength under artistic director Slava Grigoryan.

The fourth festival, Grigoryan’s third, opened with US guitarist John Scofield headlining a widely divergent but diligently chosen program of eminent musicians.

Scofield, 60, has a long and distinguished career, having played with Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Charles Mingus, Pat Metheny and many other jazz luminaries.

He is a versatile and at times incendiary player, equally at home in the bop idiom as well as jazz/rock, funk, blues and soul. His current trio includes drummer Bill Stewart, an associate since 2004, and Ben Street on acoustic bass.

They began with a faster than usual, well-disguised version of How Deep is the Ocean, showcasing Scofield’s grace and inventiveness, and bending the melody with compelling power in ceaseless adaptations and ornamenting phrases.

Street took a muscular solo and Scofield built excitement in exchanged passages with Stewart’s precise drumwork. On Swinganova from Scofield’s 2000 album Bump he introduced a touch of twangy rock guitar, but dropped those effects for a new original, a slightly soulful ballad, Museum.

Then it was back to the 50s for a country and western number, Patti Page’s hit The Tennessee Waltz, which he worked over expressively into a deep southern country blues.

An uptempo rendition of Charlie Parker’s bop standard, Relaxing at Camarillo, featured a sequence where the bass fell silent and guitar and drums flew ahead together as notes streamed out at high velocity and the drums pulsed and accented at top speed.

In a set lasting more than 90 minutes Scofield used few guitar effects, except for one not entirely successful excursion that employed loops and reverb.

His skilful melodic manipulation was again evident when the ballad Moonlight in Vermont emerged from a sensitively constructed abstract sound tableau. The playlist concluded with an original ballad, Simply Put, from Scofield’s latest album A Moment’s Peace.

The support group was local combo The Airbenders, saxophonist Mike Stewart’s trio with Hammond organ and drums, and some talented playing from young guest guitarist Hugh Stuckey.