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SCO’S WAY-BACK MACHINE

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Monday June 05, 2017

From Paste

Jazz Notes From New York: Bill Frisell, John Scofield and More
By: Bill Milkowski

SCO’S WAY-BACK MACHINE
In a retrospective concert held in the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 5 and 6, recent Grammy-winner (for 2016’s Country for Old Men) John Scofield revisited the music of two significant albums from his past—1986’s Blue Matter and 1996’s Quiet. Curated by Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jason Olaine, this rare evening presented two complementary sides of Scofield’s considerable musicality. “Now I’m a different person, I’m into different stuff, but I’m really glad that I did it,” said the acclaimed guitarist-composer and former Miles Davis sideman after the show. “In the case of Blue Matter, we hadn’t played together in 30 years but the rehearsal was this joy fest, because we all really became good friends back in the ‘80s and we haven’t spent much time together since then. So it just felt like home to me.”

Coming on the heels of the guitarist’s work on Davis’s 1985 album, You’re Under Arrest, Blue Matter captured a quintessentially mid-‘80s sound in the tightly executed unisons, intricate stop-time lines and funk-fusion underpinnings of Scofield’s urgent electric guitar in synch with Gary Grainger’s bright slap bass lines and drummer Dennis Chambers powerhouse groove. Filling out the quartet this evening, providing a distinctly ‘80s edge with his synth work, was veteran keyboardist-arranger Jim Beard, who did not appear on the original Gramavision album but did tour with the Scofield band during the mid-‘80s. They collectively burned with authority on ‘80s anthems like “So You Say,” the slow-grooving go-go beat fueled “Blue Matter” and the Chambers showcase, “Trim.” “The first night was just sort of getting through the cobwebs,” Scofield said of playing this funk-fusion fare 30 years later. “And then the second night it was, ‘OK, we got it down, let’s burn!’”

On the extreme other end of the spectrum from this dynamic funk-fusion set, Scofield recreated his beautiful 1997 nonet release on Verve, Quiet, with lush interpretations of “After the Fact,” “Tulle” and “Hold That Thought” featuring guest saxophonist and longtime Sco collaborator Joe Lovano. The sensitive rhythm tandem of drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Larry Grenadier played with consummate elegance throughout the set while the combination of two French horns (John Clark, Jeffrey Scott), flugelhorn (Michael Rodriguez), bass clarinet (Roger Rosenberg) and English horn (Charles Pillow) provided the requisite warmth and luxurious tones befitting the album’s title. And the guitarist, who played straight to the amp with no effects on this program, imbued each melodic nugget with his signature six-string flow and bent-string expressions.

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