Sunday, November 21, 2010

These Funky Things (Remind Me of Sco)

John Scofield Trio + Scottish National Jazz Orchestra – London Jazz Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, London. 15th November 2010

Hurray! I finally managed to get to see John Scofield last week. Through some bad luck with timings and being based in Manchester, somehow it’s taken me this long. Technically I did see him many years ago at the Jazz Café, but illness on my part meant an early exit after a few tracks.

Although I’ve got time for most styles of jazz guitar, Scofield’s slurry bluesy playing is pretty much bang on for me (and I guess what I try to go for in my own playing). There were no disappointments either, as Scofield was on funky fine form. The scratchy groove of ‘Chicken Dog’ was bloody great, drummer Bill Stewart’s fluid laidback feel nudging up against the lightly overdriven double stop bends that are Scofield’s trade mark. It wasn’t all bump and grind though. The trio delivered a sweet and sensitive take on ‘These Foolish Things’, Steve Swallow playing a most heart rendering bass solo up in the high upper register of his five string. Most of the tracks were of the bluesy groove variety with a little country twang thrown in for good measure. Scofield’s distinctive use of raw altered and chromatic harmony wasn’t neglected however, being in evidence aplenty on the dirty grit of ‘The Low Road’, it’s tough density enhanced by the use of delay sampled guitar self-accompaniment.

Scofield joined the Scottish National Jazz Band after the break for a set of big band arrangements led by tenor player, Tommy Smith. A highlight was ‘Groove Elation’, the big band managing to get the energy across well, with Scofield’s improvising punching through nicely. On a similar note, Miles Davis’ ‘Splatch was a good one too. The big band set wasn’t an unqualified success, the sound mix being messy at times, and the horn mix balance wasn’t quite right. Even so, it worked well in the main, with Scofield’s groove slotting in really well, and perhaps better than one might have expected within the formality of large arrangements. Top marks London Jazz Festival programming for making me a very happy bunny tonight.

No comments: