Music » Critics' Picks

John Scofield

Friday, March 8; Mississippi Nights


Like his former boss Miles Davis, guitarist John Scofield infused jazz with funk rhythms to attract a new generation of listeners weaned on rock. Davis did it in the '70s by releasing groundbreaking albums that defined jazz fusion and playing rock venues such as the Fillmore. Scofield gained a whole new audience after recording 1997's A Go Go with the organ trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, crossing over to younger, tie-dye-wearing jam-band followers more familiar with Phish and the Dead than with Miles and Trane. Though he first recorded in 1971 with pianist Jay McShann and worked with mainstream jazz players such as Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Joe Henderson, Charles Mingus and Gary Burton, Scofield's early-'80s stint with Davis solidified his reputation as one of the jazz-guitar elite.

Since then, he's never strayed far from the funk, developing a distinctive solo voice that blends an adventurous harmonic sense with a raw, often distorted rock guitar tone. Scofield's current tour supports his recent Blue Note CD Uberjam, the first to feature his working band of recent years. Anchored by drummer Adam Deitch, who's done time with the Average White Band, and bassist Jesse Murphy, the band's secret weapon is rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick. Bortnick, whom Scofield calls "the electro magician of the band," serves up in-the-pocket rhythm stylings and guitar-triggered samples to provide a wide variety of textural backdrops for Scofield's searing solos.

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