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Chronology: Three Munich Nights with John Scofield

Scofield, Steve Swallow, and Adam Nussbaum's December 1981 European tour led to the release of two LPs that are worth hearing again

Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum, and John Scofield
Left to right: Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum, and John Scofield in the Subway Club in Cologne, Germany, 1981 (photo: courtesy of Adam Nussbaum)

Although the Enja label had more room for hard-swinging jazz of the old school than ECM did, producers Matthias Winckelmann and Horst Weber were undoubtedly inspired by the success of Manfred Eicher’s label. Both Enja and ECM were German record companies documenting ’70s innovation under a mysterious acronym; both began their catalog with a release by Mal Waldron. Shortly after Eicher produced the first albums by John Abercrombie (Timeless, recorded 1974) and Pat Metheny (Bright Size Life, recorded 1975), Winckelmann and Weber put out the first album by John Scofield: Live, a 1977 gig tape with Richie Beirach, George Mraz, and Joe LaBarbera. That was followed by a studio date with Hal Galper, Stafford James, and Adam Nussbaum (Rough House, recorded 1978). These early Scofield discs with piano are fun documents of an era, a moment when the best and brightest were working out the Coltrane/Tyner language in an acoustic fusion context, but they are perhaps a little too airless and relentless for classic status.

In December 1981, Scofield toured with his peer Nussbaum and a major voice from the previous generation, Steve Swallow. Enja helped put the tour together and released two LPs of music from a three-night stand at Club Vielharmonie in Munich. Scofield’s conception had new breadth, depth, and subtlety, and his bandmates were on the same joyous page. Shinola and Out Like a Light have been touchstones ever since. 

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Originally Published
Ethan Iverson

Ethan Iverson

Ethan Iverson has been writing about jazz for 15 years, mostly on his blog Do the Math. While he was the founding pianist of the Bad Plus, these days Iverson performs in a duo with Mark Turner and in Billy Hart’s quartet, has a longstanding relationship with Mark Morris, and teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music.