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Gov’t Mule Featuring John Scofield: Sco-Mule

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In 1999, guitarist John Scofield was beginning to enjoy a younger and larger audience-the spoils of the prior year’s A Go Go, his first album with Medeski Martin and Wood. Not long before 2000, he expanded his jam-band résumé by guesting on two Georgia gigs by Gov’t Mule, the Dixie-tough yet musically nimble quartet founded by Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes. The shows were recorded but release was put on hiatus following the death of Mule bassist Allen Woody nine months later; almost impossibly, no bootlegs surfaced in the past 15 years, making this two-disc set a jam-jazz holy grail.

Gov’t Mule descends directly from the Allmans, who saw Kind of Blue as a religious text, and the all-instrumental Sco-Mule plays like a tutorial in the rich shared territory between midcentury jazz and Southern rock: the dialoguing two-guitar frontline; the competently swinging rhythm section that aims to support more than interact; the cresting waves of volume and counterpoint that work the crowd; the shuffle-stomps that crop up when the modal cruises go long. The harmonically unfussy program-bluesy Haynes originals, James Brown, Wayne Shorter’s “Tom Thumb,” a 23-minute “Afro Blue” and Scofield’s earworming “Hottentot”-sets Sco’s postboppish attack and Haynes’ rock-sophisticate phrasing on equal, complementary footing. In other words: guitar nirvana.

Originally Published