John Scofield: Old and New Inspirations

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Monday December 10, 2018

From Downbeat Magazine

John Scofield: Old and New Inspirations
By: Ken Micallef

[…] Scofield perpetually pushes himself and his trusty Ibanez AS200 guitar forward, drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration.

‘I’ve been lucky to play with really great musicians, because [my success] would not have happened if it wasn’t for the guys that I played with,’ Scofield said. ‘But [now], I do understand how this is supposed to go’“and I wasn’t always like that. Something [Thelonious] Monk said, which I thought was great: ‘Everybody has to love the song. If somebody in the band doesn’t love the song, it’s not going to sound good.’ I really believe that. You have to create this situation where everybody really wants to be playing; you can’t bum people out. Don Cherry said, ‘Music is a celebration.’ And along those same lines Charlie Haden said, ‘I’m in church when I’m playing.’ So, you just do what is necessary to make everybody feel great.’

Scofield owns up to ambition, to working hard and searching long’“forever a student.

‘I’m following in the footsteps of the great jazz composers: Wayne Shorter and Monk, people like that,’ he said. ‘As I get older, I learn more songs in the Great American Songbook. I’ve studied Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin and Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin, and this stuff sort of seeps into you. I’ve got a bunch of fake books. I like The Beatles. I like Steely Dan. I like country music a lot. I like The Carter Family, those Appalachian melodies.

‘More than making the right decisions, I’ve played the cards I was dealt, and I haven’t blown it,’ Scofield replied when asked about his enduring success. ‘Playing with Billy Cobham and George Duke when I started out, and then a couple years later joining Miles’ thing’“those were big audiences that would eventually listen to my Blue Matter and Still Warm records. On my own, I might have just stayed in my apartment practicing ‘Billie’s Bounce’ forever, which is my natural tendency. But I got into this other kind of music and it was exciting and new at the time.’

Stewart’“who began collaborating with Scofield on the 1991 Blue Note album Meant To Be’“has observed his friend’s artistic development. ‘I think John plays better now than he’s ever played,’ Stewart said. ‘His guitar sound has evolved a little bit over the years. What he goes for sound-wise’“some things that he’s been doing in recent years with bending notes’“has increased. And I hear an increased vocal quality in his playing. His sound was different in the ’90s than it is now.’

Scofield almost makes success look easy. So, can any hardworking musician find his or her way in the world?

‘I think they can achieve something,’ Scofield replied. ‘I think none of us can do what others have done. The world always changes so much, so you can’t say, ‘I want what that guy had.’ It’s not going to be that; it’s going to be something else. It might be more, it might be less, whatever. But the thing about anything is, if you put the work in’“you will see the results.’

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