Personalities | John Scofield | A Jazz-Guitar Great | Guitar Heroes
Conversant in fusion and hard bop as well as in the heady grooves of the jam-band scene, his stew of blues and jazz mixed with post-bop and funk-edged jazz and delivered in angular yet fluid phrases is one of jazz’s most distinctive sounds.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, and raised in suburban Connecticut, Scofield took up the guitar at the age of 11, inspired by both rock and blues players. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After making his recording debut with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, Scofield would become a member of the Billy Cobham/George Duke band for two years. In 1977 he recorded with Charles Mingus and then joined Gary Burton’s quartet, replacing Pat Metheny. That same year, Scofield released his debut solo album titled simply John Scofield, thus beginning his career as a bandleader. In 1979 the guitarist teamed up with his mentor Steve Swallow and drummer Andy Nussbaum (later replaced by Bill Stewart) to form the John Scofield Trio, a group that would be central to Scofield’s career. From 1982 to 1985, Scofield toured and recorded with Miles Davis, his work on the 1983 album Decoy being particularly striking.
Since that time, Scofield has prominently led his trio and other groups in the international jazz scene, recording over 30 albums as a leader, including collaborations with Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Gov’t Mule, Joe Lovano and Phil Lesh. Further, he has played and recorded with Jim Hall, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson, among many jazz legends. Recent highlights include his excursions into the drum’n’bass electronic music world on 2002’s Überjam, as well as the more traditional sounds of Saudades (2006), recorded as Trio Beyond, with drummer Jack DeJohnette and keyboardist Larry Goldings. Scofield moved to EmArCy for This Meets That (2007) and Piety Street (2009).
For nearly 20 years Scofield has plied his lines on an Ibanez AS-200, and more recently on his signature-model Ibanez JSM100, through a Mesa/Boogie Mark I reissue and an arsenal of modulation effects. One trademark of Scofield’s style is his use of portable looping effects, particularly the Boomerang Phrase Sampler, to create multi-layered guitar parts in a live setting.
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