John Scofield: John Scofield

The style of one of the most individual of modern guitarists is thrown into sharp relief by his first major solo performance

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John Scofield’s latest album, his first for ECM, is his first release playing alone – except for a loop machine used to add accompaniment. In the liner notes, Scofield writes a few words on each track, detailing things like where he first heard the piece or why he chose it for this recording.

The majority of tracks are covers and include standards and traditional songs such as Danny Boy and There Will Never Be Another You, as well as some of Scofield’s own favourites; others are originals.

On the opener, Keith Jarrett’s Coral, Scofield plays a close, dry melody on electric guitar over a woolly chord progression looping in the distance. His own Honest I Do, originally released on Grace Under Pressure (1992, Blue Note), does away with the heavy modulation of the earlier version. Instead, there’s just the slightest reverb and light electronic buzzing creating an intimate atmosphere; there’s with a short solo section which closes with Scofield playing in unison with himself.

For a musician whose back-catalogue is filled with high-intensity ensemble work and experimental sounds, this stripped-back solo endeavour is interesting and revealing, although Scofield did make a special solo feature of Georgia On My Mind in the 1990s and did record a duo guitar album, Solar, with John Abercrombie (1984, Palo Alto).

The standard My Old Flame is notably personal, with the scratches of finger repositioning and occasional fret buzzing all left in. Some pieces recall his earlier work. For example, Trance De Jour reflects some of his more individualist avant-garde compositions, with chromatic dissonance mixed with bluesy riffs.

As Scofield explains in the notes, some of the tracks were chosen because of their influence on him. Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away was one and is notable in its stylistic contrast with the rest of the album, with some electronic effects shimmering at the intro, and a driving, looped chord progression forming the basis of the song.

An absorbing picture of one of the most influential jazz guitarists of the modern period, this eponymous release fully presents a rarely seen side of the guitarist, the unadorned presentation giving unique insight into the detail of his style.

Discography
Coral; Honest I Do; It Could Happen To You; Danny Boy; Elder Dance; Mrs. Scofield’s Waltz; Junco Partner; There Will Never Be Another You; My Old Flame; Not Fade Away; Since You Asked; Trance De Jour; You Win Again (53.48)
Scofield (elg, elec). New York, August 2021.
ECM Records 4531164