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John Scofield: Eclecticism in Action

By Published: May 11, 2005
JS: Well, in 1974 I was still going to Berklee and I was friends with Dave Samuels, the vibes player. And he was really good friends with Dave Friedman, a vibraphonist who was living in New York and had just recorded with Horacee Arnold on an album called Tales of the Exonerated Flea. He got Dave Samuels and I some club gigs with Horacee when the album came out because he had another job lined up. We were excited to play with somebody who had a record out, so we drove down to Boston to play with him. It turned out that Horacee was friends with Billy Cobham, and Billy produced a demo session for him, trying to get Horacee a better recording deal. That's when Cobham first heard me. And I guessed he liked it, because when John Abercrombie left Cobham's group a month later to join Jack DeJohnette, Cobham gave me the gig. I drove down from Boston for the first rehearsal in a big New York studio and the Brecker Brothers were in the horn section. Mike and Randy were completely my idols then. I'd heard them in clubs with Horace Silver and had all their records. Playing with them—and Cobham on drums—was incredible. It was really my big break. I had played some with Gerry Mulligan, but he wasn't working much at that time. Cobham was working ALL the time. So I was able to get an apartment in New York, tour Europe for the first time that spring and play big time gigs. It was the best. I still don't think I've recovered from that.

AAJ: And I would think that playing in that era when jazz fusion was really at its peak has something to do with your eclectic musical since that time.

JS: Yeah. I think one of the reasons I'm eclectic in my pproach is because I really liked that music that Cobham did. Probably not as much as I liked my Jackie McLean records back then—but I sure liked it! I think it really opened me up to a whole bunch of stuff. Had I just stayed with my preoccupation of trying to play bebop, I would never have gotten into a lot of the music I've explored since then.

AAJ: Listening to last year's live recording at the Blue Note in New York with your trio of Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart—then hearing you last summer at the Saint Louis Jazz Festival performing a lot of that same material, I was struck by how powerful and cohesive the band has become. It's got to be a real pleasure getting up on stage with those guys.

JS: I definitely want to keep this trio going. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to record now that the Ray Charles thing is over, but I'd like to do some more with Steve and Bill. I just have to decide how to frame it.

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Related Links

John Scofield: Up Close & Personal

John Scofield CD reviews at AAJ

Photo Credit

Trio by Francesco Santucci

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