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by Seth Colter Walls

July 8, 2013

John Scofield's Funk Rock Riffs

by Seth Colter Walls  |  July 8, 2013

He may be one of the "big three" contemporary guitarists in modern jazz. And yet, unlike Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, John Scofield does not make a point of owning or appropriating a great variety of styles. There are two principal sides to his axework. There's the fairly traditional post-bop he plays with outstanding acoustic compatriots (going back to Scofield's appearance on Charles Mingus' Three or Four Shades of Blues). And then there is his fusion side: the funk rock, good-time music found on albums such as his latest, Uberjam Deux.

From the hard-grooving rhythms of a track like "Cracked Ice" to the clean-tone licks on tracks like the electro-pop inflected "Endless Summer," this is the side of Scofield that we're focusing on now. Hear the beginnings of this sound take shape on some of Miles Davis' last albums for Columbia, which featured Scofield on guitar. During some songs (like "You're Under Arrest" and "U 'n' I"), you can hear the mature Scofield fusion sound being born.

Other musicians have used Scofield's lightly distorted, happily adventurous sound as a jumping off point, too -- such as tenor man Chris Potter, on songs like the burning "Megalopolis" (which, naturally, includes a nice solo feature for Scofield). When added to the guitarist's own early rock-influenced tunes (such as "Shinola") as well as later, more pocket-grooving material (like "Three Sisters"), the cuts from Uberjam Deux seem like extensions of one of the best traditions going in the field of market-friendly yet still creative jazz. Hear all these tracks and more in the appended playlist.

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