Filmmaker Joerg Steineck's Top Ten John Scofield Albums

Michael Ricci By

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In his All About Jazz interview, Berlin-based filmmaker Joerg Steineck discusses the making of his documentary Inside Scofield. As the title suggests, the film takes a look at guitar icon John Scofield's career and life on (and off) the road as a touring jazz musician. After the interview we asked Joerg to identify his favorite "Sco" records. Interviewer Mike Jacobs also chimed in with a half dozen of his own.

1. A Go Go (Verve, 1998)

It's simply the first Scofield album listed here because it's the first Sco album I've ever listened to when I was younger and it brings back some great memories. I still love its easy-going liveliness and the colorful soundscapes. Of course Medeski Martin and Wood had a huge impact on its general grooviness. Been a fan of them since then, too.

2. Combo 66 (Verve, 2018)

Solid classic, jazz album with great melodies I really love. Of course this is the album John introduced on his 2018 tour —of which I had the pleasure to be part of. So for that personal reason alone this is my second favorite Sco album.

3. Überjam (Verve, 2002)

Probably the funkiest and grooviest tunes I've ever listened to. One of my all-time Sco favorites for sure!

4. Shinola (Enja, 1982)

Wonderfully relaxing tunes for a slow night sitting on your balcony or porch while enjoying a cool drink and having Shinola backing your inner peace.

5. Live (Enja, 1977)

John's very first album was recorded live in Munich, Germany. I love it because of it's raw and rebellious undertone. I imagine it carries a specific young anger of a musician who's already technically well advanced but still in a rebellious, self-discovery phase.

6. Bar Talk (Arista Novus, 1980)

Just great tunes and a John Scofield who's found his way to perfect his own voice.

7. Up All Night (Verve, 2003)

Together with the Überjam album it's probably my most favorite so-called fusion album to listen to. It has everything that's good, even some rock elements that are on the heavy side, great grooves, experimental parts.

8. Blue Matter (Gramavision, 1987)

Although I'm not a big fan of that typical '80s sound—and I mean the sound in general (not specifically John's sound)—kind of slick and poppy, I really dig this album because of its great mix of colors.

9. En Route (Verve, 2004)

Just another great post-bop jazz album of John and his John Scofield Trio, including his best friend and mentor Steve Swallow and his long time collaborator Bill Stewart. I'm not an expert on jazz terms but I think it has less of the progressive dynamics from the '80s and more of a rhythmical feeling added to John's playing. It's a great live album.

10. Scorched (Deutsche Grammophon, 2004)

This one sticks out of all Scofield albums because it's collaboration with composer and arranger Mark-Anthony Turnage who fully orchestrated Scofield's tunes while John is playing along to it. I like Turnage's arrangements in general but this is the perfect symbiosis of two master musicians coming together and creating a new epic.

Mike Jacobs Recommends

Still Warm (Gramavision, 1986)

In exploring the solo itineraries of Miles' talented late-era sidemen, I hopped on the Sco train with this one and never looked back. Though he would turn up the heat even more with his next album, Still Warm's smolder is unique to its brilliant line up of Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones and Don Grolnick.

Blue Matter (Gramavision, 1987)

The motherlode classic of Sco's brand of 80s post-MD electric jazz. The title track includes "the back-beat heard 'round the world" that put one Mr. Dennis Chambers indelibly on the map. The production values may sound dated to contemporary ears but the compositions and playing are still blistering and timeless. Not a speck of cereal either....

Time On My Hands (Blue Note, 1990)

Just a scant two albums after Sco's explosive jazz/funk/fusion success, Time On My Hands was a trad jazz album enthralling enough to completely win over this Blue Matter period devotee. Lovano, DeJohnette and Haden didn't hurt either.

Grace Under Pressure (Blue Note, 1992)

There are probably more overall solid albums from the trad side of his catalog but the mojo first cooked up by Scofield and Bill Frisell in Marc Johnson's Bass Desires was recapitulated here and it's an irresistibly strong and mystical drug.

Überjam (Verve, 2002)

Like a few other Miles alums, Scofield seemed to pick up the penchant for re-invention from his former bandleader. Few examples of this were quite as startling or successful as Uberjam. Great trippy synergy and mutual uplift between some funky young upstarts and a jazz sensei.

Überjam Deux (EmArcy, 2013)

A welcome reincarnation of the Uberjam band but the ensuing years show the reunited project in a heightened state of refinement. Additionally, Scofield's vividly naked tones on this record really drive home what a master of nuanced inflection he's become in recent years. Pulling off this kind of unadorned eloquence is WAY harder than Sco makes it sound and it all cuts beautifully against the fun, smartly constructed grooviness.

And for good measure...

Author's note: I'll lobby for these two: Hand Jive (Blue Note, 1994) and his collaboration with Pat Metheny: I Can See Your House from Here (Blue Note, 1994).

The Inside Scofield Film Project

You can help make this film possible by making a financial contribution to the Inside Scofield Kickstarter campaign.

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About Joerg Steineck

Joerg Steineck is an independent German filmmaker/artist based in Berlin who produced documentaries and fictional films that have been screened and awarded at numerous international film festivals. He often focusses on cultural and social aspects of life, often in reference to the concept of reality and what goes beyond. His films are characterized by unconventional storytelling and a strong audiovisual realization. Aside from being a film director, cinematographer, editor and animator he also works as a painter and visual artist. His recent films are Lo Sound Desert (2016), a music documentary about the Californian desert rock scene, the yet unreleased film American Dirge (2020), a fusion film about the self-discovery of a struggling musician and OIL-JACK (2022), a mystery film/series about one man in the Canadian wilderness.

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