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John Scofield - PopMatters interview

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Jazz has relatively few "stars" these days, musicians who might be described the way actors sometimes are: as bankable, as the ones who can "open" a film with some guaranteed box office. Even famous jazz musicians such as legend Sonny Rollins or Wynton Marsalis aren't moving many discs these days.

Jon Scofield, a guitarist who at the age of 63 isn't exactly a matinee idol, would probably laugh at being compared to a movie star. In conversation Scofield is unassuming and genial, every bit the polite kid raised in Wilton, Connecticut who happened to discover a passion for music. And who, despite being a "jazz" musician, finds himself a guitar hero in 2015.

Truth be told, when a record company wants to start a new imprint to put out jazz, John Scofield is the go-to musician. He'll get them off on the right foot.

With Past Present, Scofield is making his first appearance on the new/old Impulse! label, which is the latest of Universal Music's jazz brands. Impulse, of course, was the home in the 1960s to John Coltrane and other firebrands of the avant-garde, even though it was started by producer Creed Taylor and found early success putting out Ray Charles'sGenius+Soul=Jazz. This mixture of the daring and the soulful fits Scofield beautifully.

And it makes sense that in helping with reviving Impulse!, Scofield has gone back to his own past to revive a band that is arguably one of the most important of the last 25 years: his quartet with Joe Lovano on saxophone. Past Present features Lovano, drummer Bill Stewart (also from the previous configuration), and Larry Grenadier on bass, who replaces the late Dennis Irwin.

PopMatters talked to Scofield about the new record, the band, and his status as soft-spoken jazz hero. READ THE INTERVIEW