John Scofield Quartet
Black-eyed Sally's BBQ & Blues
March 20, 2003
In a driving rainstorm on the first night of Spring, I guided my vehicle in the darkness towards the light...the John Scofield Quartet! The venue: Black-eyed Sally's , a funky little place in Hartford, Connecticut that's known for its incredible BBQ ribs. How could you lose? Funk 'n ribs.
I got there a little early, shrugged off the rain and found a spot in the growing crowd of SCO' fans. It was a younger looking crowd (or maybe I'm just getting older). Fact is, John Scofield, in recent years, has developed a following with his hi-tech, crunchy, danceable jazz-funk sound. It's really unique and grows on you as the groove sets in.
Sco' came walking through the crowd, also wet, just in from the storm. He proceeded quickly downstairs to get ready and dry off. Soon he was up, smiling and ready to rock.
The band stood by, poised, as Sco' laughed "Thanks for coming out on a rainy Thursday night!" and proceeded to rip into an electronic Miles-influenced jam. The band was incredibly tight and obviously knew each others' musical quirks. Ripping through "What You See Is What You Get" and from the A Go Go release, a song called "Boozer", the guys lit up the crowd.
Sco' worked his guitar with a million electronic footpedals as he masterfully excreted sounds that you don't normally hear from a guitar! Very nice. Avi Bortnick added tasty backing guitar riffs and assembled an onslaught of sampling on his strategically-placed Apple laptop. Andy Hess proved impressive on bass, but the drummer really caught my attention. He looks like a skateboarder and pounded the traps with an awesome technique and style. His name is Adam Deitch.
As the night progressed, the band was smilin', the crowd was dancin' and jerkin' and rockin'. It just got better and better. I prepared for my trip home and grabbed a full rack of BBQ ribs for the road. Speaking of which, Scofield grew up just down the road from me. He was born in Ohio but raised in Connecticut where he took up the guitar at age 11. One of his teachers turned him on to Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall and Pat Martino. Sco' soon attended Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Sco' jammed with folks like Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Billy Cobham/George Duke, Gerry Mulligan, McCoy Tyner, Jim Hall and Gary Burton. In 1982 he joined up with Miles Davis. He stayed for three years and three albums.
Scofield has collaborated with contemporaries including Pat Metheny, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Bill Frisell, Government Mule and Joe Lovano. He signed with Verve Records in 1995 and released a series of fine recordings.
His newest Verve release, uberjam presents 11 original songs. As Scofield explains, "Avi Bortnick is a rhythm guitar master. Between the two of us, we cover just about everything a guitar can do and should do. It's hard to find a player who likes laying a groove while I play endless solos! When Avi expressed an interest to get into sampling a few years back, I never realized that he would quickly turn into the electro-magician that he is today!"
We all shared Scofield's enthusiasm for his "secondary guitarist". He was truly a big reason the night sounded so good. John Scofield continues to find fertile fields in the wasteland of today's mediocre music.
Scott H. Thompson has contributed to Jazziz, JazzTimes, Down Beat, Pulse! and The Jazz Report magazines. He is a jazz radio veteran and member of the Jazz Journalists Association. He wrote the CD liner notes for Herbie Hancock "Headhunters", Weather Report "8:30", and George Duke "Brazilian Love Affair", to name a few.