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John Scofield – Past Present (2015)

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Friday September 25, 2015

From Something Else Reviews

John Scofield – Past Present (2015)
By: S. Victor Aaron

Fresh off his stint with Miles Davis in the mid-80s, John Scofield made a series of signature fusion records that got his solo career off the ground, earning him a reputation as a master guitarist and a rather good composer. But as the 80s turned into the 90s, Scofield made stylistic U-turn, making straight-up bop records leading a quartet that included a young, up-and-coming tenor saxophonist named Joe Lovano. Eventually settling on Bill Stewart on drums and Marc Johnson on bass, the John Scofield Quartet hardly stopped Scofield’s momentum; in fact it catapulted him into the upper reaches of jazz guitarists, a status he enjoys to this day. Stewart and Lovano’s star power had likewise skyrocketed (Johnson was already well known from his stint in Bill Evans’ last trio).

Those Blue Note records, Time On My Hands, Meant To Be and What We Do are unabashedly straight jazz records that didn’t really test the frontiers of the idiom, and yet Scofield managed to make them stand out because he wrote catchy, melodic but tricky melodies for the group. Further, the immense musicianship on display was done with grace, looseness and rare wit. And lastly, Scofield never left the other sides of him at the door; he found a way to parlay his rock, funk, soul and RnB personalities into jazz rather effectively, never diluting the ‘jazz’ in the process.

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