John Scofield, The Blue Note, NYC – 12/4
John Scofield concluded a weeklong residency at one of New York’s most famous jazz clubs, the Blue Note in Greenwich Village, by taking the crowd on a journey through the various jazz styles he’s explored over his career. Joined by drummer Greg “Hutch” Hutchinson, keyboardist Mike Eckroth and bassist Ben Street, Scofield performed both originals and familiar standards. Having recently released an album of jazz ballads titled A Moment’s Peace, the band dipped into that material while also exploring bebop and Medeski, Martin & Wood-influenced groove jazz.
Much of the show featured the band bouncing between soothing ballads and blasting their way through fast tempo bebop classics. They blazed through Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” and also covered bebop legends Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell. A cover of Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” was so impassioned that an excited Scofield proclaimed, “bebop is the music of the future” after the song. Propelled by the explosive drumming of Hutchinson, tasty piano work by Eckroth and inventive lead guitar work from Scofield himself, the band roared through the Monk cover, which was a highlight of the set.
Another of the show’s best moments was Scofield’s own “Still Warm,” which he wrote back in 1985. He explained to the crowd that the song made him feel old, as Hutchinson had encouraged John to revisit the old gem by telling him that it was his favorite song when he was in 7th grade. Hutchinson certainly shined on his favorite song, as he pushed the band into an exploratory jam that ended in a soaring climax. Whereas the bebop tunes featured the band essentially passing the solo around and giving each musician ample time and space to play whatever they desired, “Still Warm” featured more aggressive interplay between band members as they took the song in a new direction. Similarly, set-closer “Green Tea,” a song Scofield wrote with Medeski, Martin & Wood, saw keyboardist Mike Ethroth switching from piano to organ as the band ended the night with some groove heavy but experimental jazz funk.
At the end of the night, Scofield had taken the crowd on an hour and a half tour through his entire career. By mixing covers of his major influences (John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis) with his own recent and not so recent solo material, Scofield showed an intimate crowd why he is not only one of jazz’s most talented musicians, but also one of its most creative and versatile.