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John Scofield at la Maison de la Culture (review)

Scofield demonstrated that he isn’t just a funk rock or jazz fusion guitar player.  ©Brett Delmage, 2013

John Scofield Trio
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
La Maison de la Culture, Gatineau

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The opening night of the John Scofield Trio’s tour of Quebec began in the dimly lit, brilliant acoustics of the theatre of La Maison de la Culture de Gatineau, where its attentive audience barely made a whisper – when they weren’t cheering enthusiastically.

Scofield grooved with his mouth open, at times singing his parts and bending his knees dancing to the music. Drummer Bill Stewart demonstrated his prowess when holding down the groove, occasionally unleashing his ferocious mastery with the full force of his body. Bassist Scott Colley had his eyes focused on both Scofield and Stewart when he wasn't trancing with his solos, complementing both Stewart and Scofield as if he could read their minds.

It was a night of group interplay, hard swing, country ballads, blues, atmospheric soundscapes and, of course, groove. With this trio, Scofield demonstrated that he isn’t just a funk rock or jazz fusion guitar player, as he is popularly known. He reaffirmed to local audiences that he is more than capable of playing straight-ahead jazz without losing the trademark Scofield-isms that he’s known and relished for.

The trio played a variety of tunes from hard swinging straight ahead tunes like the undeclared opener, “Straight, No Chaser” and the closing hoedown-like take on rhythm changes, to the gorgeous ballads “I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance” and “Just A Girl I Used To Know”, to the grooves of “Twang” and “Green Tea”. They also played an unannounced bluesy piece, and a freer effects laden piece with bowed bass, a tribalistic unaccompanied drum solo and a guitar solo over a carnival-istic waltz-like loop which was more along the lines of his tune “Kubrick”.

The group may be called the John Scofield Trio, but drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Scott Colley established that they are two giants in their own right, taking solos that gathered greater response than Scofield’s in some instances. That’s not to say that Scofield wasn’t burning himself: on the second piece, Bill Stewart created a nice build up over the section of shots at the end of the head and Scofield exploded with a beautiful line comparable to Bird’s opening line on “A Night In Tunisia” in its fluidity and excitement which wooed the audience into hollers, whistling, woos, and shouts.

The third piece, the ballad-like “I Don’t Stand A Ghost of A Chance”, began with Scofield playing unaccompanied. Colley and Stewart then gently joined in. After Scofield’s dazzling guitar solo, Colley took a bass solo demonstrating why he is “no mere substitute” for Steve Swallow, as Scofield said in the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview. Ending the piece the same way it began, Scofield played a gorgeous unaccompanied outro complemented by a uni-vibe type effect. and then closed it with some reverse delay sounds and a final painter’s touch from Colley and Stewart.

The group exchange on “Straight, No Chaser” was quite exciting with Scofield taking a solo that kept referring back to the melody. The bass and drums had a heated exchange with some particularly wowing moments from Stewart’s drum work. The following rubato-style piece began with Scofield accompanied only by his delay effects pedal which had a large delay and swelled in. Stewart and Colley joined in when Scofield began the repetitive plaintive melody. The piece went into some wild directions, particularly the two solos by Stewart and Scofield. After playing that stretched the listeners' ears with its time, freeness and atmospheric direction, the band flew into the grooves of the tune “Twang” which was welcomed with woos and applause by the audience.

Scofield presented the next piece, “Just A Girl I Used To Know”, by recalling when he first heard it performed by Ray Charles. Afterwards he recited the lyrics in a poetic manner before beginning to play it on the guitar. The sweet country ballad made good use of Scofield’s Telecaster which he played all evening, in place of his usual Ibanez hollow-body guitar. Again, the band contrasted the choice of tunes by going from a slow country ballad to a fast hoe-down-like take on rhythm changes which was the last tune of the set.

The band came back to play the popular Scofield tune "Green Tea" as an encore. Scofield ended the show by thanking the audience, the presenters, and the Montreal Jazz Festival, and inviting people to come catch one of his other Quebec tour shows.

    – Justin Duhaime

Set List

  • untitled hard swinging tune
  • untitled bluesy tune
  • I Don’t Stand A Ghost of A Chance
  • Straight No Chaser
  • untitled soundscape tune
  • Twang
  • Just A Girl I Used To Know
  • Untitled Hoe Down like Rhythm Changes
  • Encore = Green Tea

See also:

Paragraphs 2 and 7 were changed at the request of the reviewer to make minor changes for clarity.

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Photos from the concert   ©Brett Delmage, 2013
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