John Scofield is documented in his pre-Miles Davis
period on Shinola
, a 1981 date with Steve Swallow
(electric bass) and Adam Nussbaum
(drums). The guitarist's distinctive style is highly developed even at this stage in his career, combining elements of rock and rhythm 'n' blues with post-bop leanings and an uncanny, 'left-handed' lyricism, all colored with a lightly distorted, subtly phase-shifted tone, his legato lines embellished with bent notes, picked octaves and sweet 'n' sour cluster chords.
Nussbaum provides edgy momentum while Swallow's agile bass fills in the texture with commentary and counterpoint. Scofield's improvisations often sound more like rhetorical questions than declarative statements, implying the very answers for which he seems to be searching. On "Dr. Jackle" he turns out high-speed, slightly fragmented phrases that sideslip in and out of key, using open strings and other guitar-friendly techniques that, paradoxically, achieve an ultimately horn-like effect. "Yawn," a wistful, searching ballad, and the solo intro to "Jean the Bean" both show Scofield's ability to suggest complex harmonies with minimal means, laced with guitar licks straight out of the soul music lexicon that nevertheless avoid sounding clichéd.
"Rags to Riches," a catchy original, contains strong solos and a humorous "Those Were the Days" quote. Closing out the disc, the title track alternates heavily distorted bombast with a gently cascading line, fleshed out with a neck-spanning solo of slow bends, hard riffing and attitude to spare.
Personnel: John Scofield: electric guitar; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.