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Published: 2005/06/02
by Brad Farberman

That’s What I Say – John Scofield

Verve 436002

I want to thank Medeski, Martin and Wood. Not for the countless hours of entertainment they've afforded me over the years (although I should thank them for that too), or the dozen or so concert experiences they've conferred to me (I should definitely thank them for that), but for what they did to John Scofield.

Because A Go Go was super-nasty (that’s right, super-nasty), and every Sco album since has been burnin’.

I mean, I don't know if there was hypnosis involved, or some type of brainwash or what. But, as far as I can tell, the boys from Shacklyn set Sco on a funkier path.

Which, truly, is not to say that he wouldn't have walked that path without the aid of MMW. The guy played with Miles and Mingus for crying out loud (ie. Sco knows what’s up).

But, deep background aside, here's the facts: beginning with A Go Go, Sco knocked out six rockin’ sets in seven years. And his seventh in seven years, due out June 7th, might be his best yet.

That’s What I Say John Scofield Plays The Music of Ray Charles is a special album, a star-studded event (in a good way, though), and true to the spirit of Brother Ray.

Plus, it's spilling over with what makes a Sco record so valuable: that sticky, dirty, twangy guitar tone that's recognizable from note one.

And it's spilling over with other things, too, like vocals. Mavis Staples, Dr. John, Aaron Neville and the unavoidable Warren Haynes throw down like it's their job (no? not funny?).

John Mayer, too. Yes, that John Mayer. On his way home from TRL, Mayer stopped by the studio and got down with Sco and, I swear, that's the end of my Mayer-bashing here because, and I promise you, he kills it on this record. "I Don't Need No Doctor" is full of soul and feeling and, honestly, you might not have even known it was Mayer.

Likewise, "I Got A Woman" is full of soul and feeling, too, but you'll recognize right away that it's Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, lending his voice to the session. John's raw, inimitable vocals were a great fit for this project, and Ray would have been proud.

And, in all honestly, I don't know who wouldn't be proud of the instrumentals on here. They're gritty, and sleazy, and down-home and… yeah, they're great. "Sticks and Stones" is a greasy, uptempo cooker (this is the kind of stuff that Soulive spent the early parts of their career trying to emulate) and "Unchain My Heart (Part 1)" is so sly and chunky that it hurts.

And what's more, it all sounds so authentic. Maybe that's due to bassist Willie Weeks and the time he put in supporting Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. Maybe it's due to drummer Steve Jordan and the time he put in with people like Sonny Rollins and the Rolling Stones. I can't say for sure, but what I do know is that Sco fits right in with these cats, and his playing has never been more tasteful and restrained.

Take the closing track, for instance (our fearless leader all alone with"Georgia On My Mind"), and tell me that's not what it's all about. Sco's been rockin since the '70s but as far I can tell, he's just getting started. Go check out this record.

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