An iconic jazz guitarist releases his first solo album on ECM Records.
John Scofield – Electric Guitar And Looper – ECM Records ECM 2727 (2022) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 55:08 ****1/2:
(John Scofield – guitars, loop machine)
After nearly fifty years as a recording artist, guitarist extraordinaire John Scofield has released a solo project. With electric guitars and a looping machine, the self-titled album (his second for ECM Records) offers a generous 13 tracks, including many covers. Scofield has acknowledged that the pandemic figured into his decision to make this record. He recorded the tracks at his hone studio and then sent them to engineer Tyler McDiarmid for technical adjustments. In essence, he utilized loops as a means of accompaniment and expanding the aural landscape. Many of these songs had been previously recorded. Side 1 opens with a cover of Keith Jarrett’s ballad, “Coral”. As Scofield indicates in his liner notes, he begins with freewheeling improvisation that consists of crisp notation against rhythm chords (the tracked looper). His phrasing is intricate and complex. An original ballad “Honest I Do” (first recorded in 1991) has an ethereal spacey resonance, with some interesting sonic effects. He distills the tenderness of the melody as well as the emotional impact. In a more traditional jazz treatment, the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke tune, “It Could Happen To You” is rendered in up tempo swing. The listener can discern the melody, but Scofield’s unique interpretative skills create a refreshing take. Some of the guitar tonality is reminiscent of Wes Montgomery. There is a key change with some echo-laden fuzzy distortion. “Danny Boy” is one of the world’s most beloved songs This stark arrangement is captivating and the looped track has a droning quality that complements the whimsical melancholy that defines this song. Picking up the pace, “Elder Song” is a sprightly blues-infused piece with several hooks and sophisticated execution. “Mrs. Schofield’s Waltz” employs a subtle 3/4 time signature with deft chord changes.
This is an eclectic group of numbers, especially the covers. Side 2 kicks off with a New Orleans blues institution, “Junco Partner”. Funky and soulful, Scofield manages to capture both the plaintive social context and the inherent accessible Louisiana vibe . “There Will Never Be Another You” is another jazz standard. Scofield references the original date he accompanied Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. Here the arrangement feels like medium-swing with a percolating lead. The final solo (without a loop) is top-notch. “My Old Flame” is a very stylish late night performance with volume modulations that are catchy. In a pleasant surprise, Scofield covers Buddy Holly’s indelible “Not Fade Away”. All of the great rock and roll Bo Diddly grooves are present, and the guitarist leans into bluesy countenance with inventive play. His versatility is impressive. Bringing the heat down, “Since You Asked” has a laconic tempo with excellent harmony. There is an overall gossamer, jazzy resonance. In another genre-bending take, “Trance De Jour” approximates fusion aesthetics, with jagged tonality, hypnotic pulse and near-psychedelic accents. There is a nimble fade out and return to close things out. The finale is another unexpected gem, Hank Williams’ “You Win Again”. Even 70 years after his untimely death, he is still the “king” of country music. Scofield has an innate sense of a relaxed country arrangement and narrative style of this genre. He explores melodic essence with a creative twang and modulates the key in the last verse.
John Scofield (Electric Guitar And Looper) is an ambitious, engaging solo record. There is a multitude of idiomatic musical expression, improvisation and modern studio technology. The pristine mix surrounds Scofield with spacing and understated studio engineering that never takes the spotlight away from the artist. The 180-gram vinyl pressing is very good with little surface noise, and no hisses or pops.
John Scofield – Electric Guitar And Looper
Side 1: Coral, Honest I Do; It Could Happen To You; Danny Boy; Elder Dance; Mrs. Scofield’s Waltz
Side 2: Junco Partner; There Will Never Be Another You; My Old Flame; Not Fade Away; Since You Asked; Trance De Jour; You Win Again
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