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John Scofield offers intimate self-portrait on first solo guitar album / Live For Live Music

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With a career spanning over half a century, marked by influential collaborations with jazz greats like Miles Davis and Joe Henderson as well as several dozen genre-bending leader dates, it’s all the more striking that this is in fact John Scofield’s first ever guitar-solo recording. The long wait, however, pays off, as John is able to benefit from his decades of experience and charts an intimate path through the styles and idioms he has traversed up until today. He is not entirely all on his own on this endeavour though: the guitarist enters into dialogues with himself, soloing to his own tasteful chordal and rhythmic accompaniment via loop machine. 

“I think that there’s a delicateness that I have acquired from playing at home alone”, Scofield has recently said in conversation with The Boston Herald. “I am so used to playing with a slamming band […] and there’s a certain musicality to that. That went away and was replaced by this more delicate approach of pinpointing the beauty of the strings. When I play solo, I make these little guitar loops on the fly, […] and it’s almost like I’m playing with another person.”

Not uncommon for self-titled recordings, a deeper meaning can be read into choosing the album name John Scofield, as John digs deep into the past, all the way back to his roots and the heroes of his youth. The result is a balanced and thorough picture of the musician, tying together the music that shaped him and that he has subsequently continued to influence and forge himself. 

Live For Live Music - James Sissler writes….With over 40 albums under his belt (not including the ones he contributed to as a sideman), John Scofield has built one of the most diverse discographies in the history of jazz over the course of nearly five decades. Having collaborated with some of the world’s top players in genres ranging from jazz to funk to psychedelic rock, the prolific guitarist has made music for every mood, resulting in an eclectic catalogue that has a little something for everyone to enjoy, and a lot for diehard fans to appreciate. With his newest release, tellingly entitled John Scofield, Sco offers fans something new—an intimate self portrait of one man, his guitar, and a looper.

The self titled solo album features 13 tracks, including five original compositions, traditionals “Junco Partner” and “Danny Boy”, covers of Buddy Holly‘s “Not Fade Away” and Hank Williams‘ “You Win Again”, and more. Apropos of the title, Scofield expresses his personality and mastery like never before, though it is actually the second release to bear his name. His 1977 self titled debut, which was recorded in Tokyo, was subsequently rereleased under the title East Meets West in 1987.

In a social media post, John Scofield called the solo album “How I spent the pandemic. Home with Susan and Gunnar,” referring to his wife and dog, who posted a humorous album announcement before the release.

“I am his dog Gunnar,” the announcement read. “I do not know who that animal is on the cover of the record but I don’t think he’s even met John before. ECM even tried to shut me up with dog bones! John is mine and that’s all I have to say.”

Most of John Scofield’s new solo album is mellow and sweet. It is the perfect music to put on in the background, but it contains subtle complexity worthy of a deep listen. And of course it wouldn’t be a John Scofield record without some far-out musical explorations.

“Not Fade Away” features a spacey improvisation against a reversed loop, creating a psychedelic effect that recurs throughout the album. “Trance De Jour” likewise disrupts the album’s mellow tone with some dissonant jazz chords and atonal wandering.

As the name suggests, John Scofield offers listeners a characterizing portrayal of a true master at work. Fans of Scofield’s distinctive style and unique harmonic sensibility will enjoy the opportunity to hear his playing stripped down to its bare essence as he winds through never before heard original compositions and interprets classics as only he can.

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