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John Scofield: This Meets That

Perhaps more than any other instrumentalists, guitarists have misguided notions about chops, as in you have to display everything at your disposal all the time; use ’em or lose ’em. As speed-king contemporaries became guitar heroes when the fusion era dawned, John Scofield developed a reputation for only being able to do the best with what he had. Not so. His new CD, This Meets That, is the latest proof that Scofield indeed has chops to rival the shredders. The ever-musical guitarist just has the taste to know when not to use them.

Scofield brings back the rhythm section from his standout 2004 live CD En Route: veteran bassist Steve Swallow and rising young drumming star Bill Stewart. He also adds a four-piece horn section throughout, and another of the guitar’s modern-day outside thinkers, Bill Frisell, on one track. Scofield’s jagged, alternately-tuned introductory notes on the funky opener, “The Low Road,” signal the listener to expect the unexpected. That’s reiterated by another abstract intro to the subsequent, de-tuned “Down D.”

The alternating dirge and swing sections of “Strangeness in the Night” employ the horns (baritone saxophonist Roger Rosenberg, trombonist Jim Pugh, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Feldman and trumpeter John Swana) to great effect. Ditto “Heck of a Job,” the New Orleans-fueled statement on the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, which features one of Swallow’s inimitable fretless bass solos.

Scofield even makes old rock (the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”) and country hits (Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors”) sound hip, and Frisell’s tremolo guitar helps breathe life into an even more tired warhorse, “House of the Rising Sun.” Further in, the free-jazz experiment “Pretty Out” provides a microcosm of Scofield’s career by showcasing how he can chop it up, while always stressing taste and tone over technique.

Originally Published