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Published: 2001/08/07
by Dan Greenhaus

John Scofield Band- Castle Clinton, Battery Park 8/2

Finding out the John Scofield Band was playing a free concert one subway stop away from my work is equal to hitting the lottery. Scofield, the legendary jazz guitar player, has performed with anyone and everyone from the likes of Miles Davis to Medeski, Martin and Wood. In fact, it was the collaboration with the latter that introduced many people in our community to him with the recording of the amazing album A-Go-Go on Blue Note records.

If you have never been to Castle Clinton (neither had I), it is right on the Hudson River providing a fantastic view along the boardwalk. The stage itself is inside the “castle,” in name only, which is merely a round open-air shack, devoid of any castle-type feeling. It feels more as if it was someone’s backyard. John Scofield took the stage around 7:10 after 10 minutes of concert giveaways to artists I’ve never heard of. There were approximately 800 or so people there and of that, only fifty or so heads, which provided a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere for us. In fact, there was a gentleman in front of me with an umbrella open who, upon me asking him politely to close it, gave me a look as if I was asking him the most ridiculous question he had ever heard.

After brief thank you’s, the band leapt into John’s trademark brand of jazz/funk. The first two songs of the show were introduced as selections from the just-completed album. They were spacey jazz jams that showcased John’s offtime signature sound.

The third song, which was also played at GOTV, was the first highlight. John’s rhythm section, Adam Deitch on drums and Jesse Murphy on bass, really showed the crowd their chops, changing from the jazz flavor of the first two songs to a very techno sound. Rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick switched from guitar to his little techno-board that he used to lay down ambient soundscapes for John to play over. It is this music which I think brings out the best in this incarnation of the John Scofield Band. They really shine when Adam and Jesse lock in, as they did in this instance. At one point, John stepped back allowing the other band members to step up for a fantastic jam. The following song was one off of A-Go-Go, “Jeep on 35”. The tune was significantly more exploratory than on the album and elicited a huge ovation from the heads in attendance.

The rest of the concert was very enjoyable. John Scofield has really put together a winning band. This was not my favorite place to see a concert, and I would probably be reluctant to see another there, barring a surprise appearance by Bisco, moe. or “The Boys.” There was a heavy police and security guard presence, probably due to John Scofield’s reputation for enciting riots (j/k). The audience was generally unsupportive and the music suffered slightly because of it. After seeing so many shows where the band and crowd feed off each other, this show was a bit of a shock. But in the end, it was all okay. After all, it was free.

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