Scofield's Outside-In Approach to Jazz

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Monday October 08, 2018


By: Richard Scheinin

Guitarist John Scofield’s new album is called Combo 66. It refers to the fact that Scofield is 66 years old and it riffs on the titles of some of the jazz LPs he grew up with, including Bill Evans’ Trio ’64. Then again, Scofield, who has been on the road for 40-plus years ‘” with Gerry Mulligan, with Miles Davis, with Gov’t Mule, with his own bands ‘” knows a lot about the nation’s highways, so Combo 66 also puts him in mind of Route 66. He wrote all the tunes for the album while on the road, and, naturally, his new Combo 66 quartet ‘” which performs at SFJAZZ on Oct. 21 ‘” already has spent months playing those compositions while touring the U.S., Europe and Asia: ‘We haven’t gotten completely sick of the songs,’ Scofield jokes, mentioning that he already is writing new material. A man of many projects, he has a mania for keeping things fresh: ‘You have to keep adding stuff, because a band is like a monster machine or like an animal that needs to be fed.’

Combo 66 is a straight-out-of-New-York jazz session for the guitarist, who grew up in suburban Connecticut, spent years honing his skill-set while gigging around Manhattan, and still lives just north of the city. On the album, Scofield nods here and there toward a blues-and-roots feeling ‘” one of his trademarks ‘” but this is mostly refined straight-ahead jazz playing by top players: drummer Bill Stewart, who has worked with Scofield for nearly 30 years; pianist Gerald Clayton, a young gun whose keyboard touch Scofield likens to that of Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan; and bassist Vicente Archer, who is ‘great at bass function, and what I mean by that is he loves to support the band on the bottom end,’ Scofield says. ‘He’s great at walking. He can really swing. And Vicente’ ‘” who also performs in groups led by Robert Glasper and Nicholas Payton ‘” ‘can push the band. He loves to play funk, and he can play free. He’s super-versatile. All these guys can play all sorts of ways, which is kind of the way I like to play, too.’

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