Wednesday, September 9, 2015

John Scofield - 1981 "Shinola"

Shortly before joining Miles Davis' group, guitarist John Scofield recorded this passionate trio set with electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum. Much of Scofield's playing here is quite rock-ish although he does show off his jazz chops on Jackie McLean's "Dr. Jackle." The frequently intense music (which has been reissued on CD), which is not as essential as many of the guitarist's later sets, has plenty of fiery moments.

John Scofield is documented in his pre-Miles Davis period on Shinola, a 1981 date with Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums). The guitarist's distinctive style is highly developed even at this stage in his career, combining elements of rock and rhythm 'n' blues with post-bop leanings and an uncanny, 'left-handed' lyricism, all colored with a lightly distorted, subtly phase-shifted tone, his legato lines embellished with bent notes, picked octaves and sweet 'n' sour cluster chords.

Nussbaum provides edgy momentum while Swallow's agile bass fills in the texture with commentary and counterpoint. Scofield's improvisations often sound more like rhetorical questions than declarative statements, implying the very answers for which he seems to be searching. On "Dr. Jackle" he turns out high-speed, slightly fragmented phrases that sideslip in and out of key, using open strings and other guitar-friendly techniques that, paradoxically, achieve an ultimately horn-like effect. "Yawn," a wistful, searching ballad, and the solo intro to "Jean the Bean" both show Scofield's ability to suggest complex harmonies with minimal means, laced with guitar licks straight out of the soul music lexicon that nevertheless avoid sounding clichéd.
"Rags to Riches," a catchy original, contains strong solos and a humorous "Those Were the Days" quote. Closing out the disc, the title track alternates heavily distorted bombast with a gently cascading line, fleshed out with a neck-spanning solo of slow bends, hard riffing and attitude to spare.

 Track listing

    "Why'd You Do It?"
    "Dr. Jackle"
    "Jean the Bean"
    "Rags to Ritches"


    John Scofield - electric guitar
    Steve Swallow - bass
    Adam Nussbaum - drums



  2. here's one you might find interesting Danny Gatton Joey DeFrancesco "Relentless"

  3. Relentless is good, but since you mention Gatton... have you heard New York Stories? It's a great album with lots of Danny playing as part of the band, which is no less amazing than when he was playing in his more usual mode. Great arrangements and playing from Bobby Watson, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Franck Amsallem, Charles Fambrough, and Yuron Israel.
    and thanks for Shinola - great music for those discerning enough to know the difference between Shinola and that other stuff.

  4. I just noticed that the tracks are date tagged 1988, not 1981. Oops. Easily fixed though. Fun album.

  5. Sorry I didn't notice that muddy, I usually look for that kind if thing.