Thursday, January 11, 2018

John Scofield - 1981 [2010] "Out Like A Light"

Out Like a Light is a live album by jazz guitarist John Scofield that was released in 1981. Out Like a Light is the sister album to Shinola as both recordings contain material from the Munich concerts of December 1981.

Fine trio date from '81, with guitarist John Scofield stretching out in multiple directions and showing his facility with the swing style, mainstream, and jazz-rock genres. Besides his fluid, inventive solos, Scofield works well with bassist Steve Swallow, who approaches his instrument like a second guitar, and drummer Adam Nussbaum.

OUT LIKE A LIGHT is the best illustration yet Scofield’s prismatic talent. His solo on ‘Holidays’ displays the colours of all his influences refracted into the natural and coherent single shaft of light that is Scofield’s distinctive sound.

This set, along with "Shinola" was recorded live in 1981 in Germany, at Club Vielharmonie. This music is taken from the second night of the group's stand, and is as wonderful as it's predecessor. In a trio setting Scofield's guitar is allowed to roam at will, without the inclusion of any keyboards. His band, Steve Swallow-electric bass, Adam Nussbaum-drums, are arguably the best rhythm section he ever played with. Swallow has played with many jazz greats, especially with vibist Gary Burton. Nussbaum, too, has played with many fine jazz artists, and together they lay down a sympathetic, almost intuitive foundation for Scofield. Both these sets were recorded just prior to Scofield joining Miles Davis' band in 1982.

The trio are just about evenly mixed on this recording, which gives listeners a good chance to hear three musicians at the top of their game. Four of the five tracks are by Scofield, with the fifth ("Melinda") by Allen Lerner. The music is energetic without sounding rushed, which sometimes happens in a live setting. Scofield has his guitar under restraint here, leaving space for Swallow to shine through with some wonderful bass playing, with Nussbaum filling in any holes with his light touch on the cymbals and snare drum. All the tracks are long, 7-8 minutes, with "Melinda" clocking in at a bit over 3 minutes. But the star is Scofield, who plays with intelligence and forethought-sometimes leaving spaces between the notes and other times filling up his solos with a flurry of notes.

This music ebbs and flows and is over before you know it. The trio is continually playing off one another as only musicians of this caliber can. This early look at Scofield is some of his finest playing-just his guitar and rhythm section, and is very satisfying. If you've been waiting (like I have) for this to hopefully be re-released, well, here it is. I only wish more from this trio would be made available-it's out there, along with more of his live quartet music (hear "Live")from roughly the same era. A fine studio set is "Rough House" for those unfamiliar with Scofield. Another good live set is "Live-En Route", from 2003, recorded at the Blue Note Club, with Bill Stewart on drums, and Scofield's old pal Steve Swallow on bass. But if you like jazz guitar trios in a live setting, this is something (along with "Shinola") that is well worth investigating.

I've listened to a lot of John Scofield records over the years; this is a favorite, as are Still Warm and Blue Matter. Holidays, the opening track on Out Like a Light, is a tour de force; it sounds extremely fresh and new. Scofield, Swallow, and Nussbaum play together with great sensitivity, playing at the edges of the jazz idiom to build tension and play some amazing solos. Since it's a live recording, one would expect some looseness in solo construction and some clams, but there are very few of either - just playing by three very talented musicians interacting with great musical empathy.

It bears repeated listening very well, and compares favorably to much more well-known albums, in my opinion. All three players bring a lot to the music....

This is one of Scofield's two or three best records, in some ways, still my favorite to this day (it was the second one that I heard, after "Still Warm). I truly believe that, though Sco has grown as a player over the years, he's never quite surpassed, on record, the tune "Holidays" from this album. Simply put, I've never heard anything quite like it in jazz, rock, fusion, or from the jam band scene (something about it's loping feel suggests some Grateful Dead material, though it's light years beyond them in every way). Also, Steve Swallow's bass solo on that tune is probably my favorite ever; it's incredibly beautiful, and operates like a mini composition within a composition.
Though the album never again achieves the same staggering level of achievement, that's really no insult to the other songs, which are all terrific. It simply means that "Holidays" is, for me, up there with things like Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas," Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," or Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" - a rare, perfect musical achievement that feels as though not a single detail could be any different, much less any better.

Cover picture from the original artwork. (I didn't like the new cover.) Alternate scans included.

Track listing:

1. "Holidays" (8:45)
2. "Last Week" (8:41)
3. "Miss Directions" (7:53)
4. "Out Like a Light" (7:01)
5. "Melinda" (3:18)


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



  2. thx for Sco!
    Greetz from Germany :)

  3. I haven't heard this one. Thanks Crimhead420!