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Bebop Spoken There

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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

John Scofield @ Howard Assembly Room, Leeds - Feb. 13

John Scofield (guitar).
(Review by Steve T)

Should have seen him at the Sage a year or two back, with a band. I wasn't that bothered at the time but I like his current album and it's probably wise to start mopping up as many Miles Davis alumni as one can gather.

Recently I thought I'd lost some tickets so I ransacked the house. Came across a John McLaughlin ticket for Newcastle Playhouse from ninety-four (while I was still in West Yorkshire) which can only have been Joey DeFrancesco. I also saw Mike Stern intrude upon a master-class with Martin Taylor in one of the classrooms at Sage Gateshead, resulting in an impromptu jam, so I'm putting a tick next to him too.

Leeds is a maximum three hour round trip for us so an opportunity to play up to six albums, though we only managed four.  Mrs T is generally up for guitarists though not long in I got the 'never again' I normally get when tabla players start routine maintenance on stage.

Leeds is my University City (a mature student) but I never remember anything until I get there, by which time it's too late to be useful. It still has the stench of Britpop in its buskers; no wonder they thought the swingsties were so fab. Worth a pound for a pair of percussionists and another for a beggar. 

Not long into his set, Scofield conceded it was better than paying for a band. Up until a few days earlier, I'd thought I had paid for a band. I'm sure I saw them listed on the venue website but it disappeared unless that was another gig, or I dreamt it, or the extended misspent youth has been up to mischief again.

The set opened with Moonlight in Vermont followed by It Could Happen to You, I know because he told us the first and sang the latter. I say sang but it was more talked, which was probably a blessing. We saw Steve Howe do a similar set-up and he sang a Big Bill Broonzy song, which wasn't pretty.

Hank Williams' Angel of Death next, illustrating how close jazz is to blues and how close country is to blues, but with a teenth of the soul.

A couple of originals: Hangover and Honest I Do; a Monk piece he couldn't remember the title of and a medley of Danny Boy and Charlie Rich's Behind Closed Doors by way of Tennessee Waltz. 

Freight Train by Elisabeth Cotton was followed by a medley of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat and Self-Portrait in Three Colors, his love of Mingus' music clear from his introduction. 

Next up, a medley of two by Leadbelly: New Orleans he introduced as House of the Rising Son and John Harding and the set ended with him saying that rock and roll will never die and playing something by Chuck Berry though, without the lyrics, they're all much the same.

Not quite what I'd had in mind. I'd imagined the full house was made up of lots of guitarists, a few jazzers, a few people who know who Miles Davis is and a lot of people who think they know what Miles Davis was. Perhaps it's the snob in me but I arrived at the conclusion the audience was made up almost entirely of pop and rock guitarists.

So was it any good? For the most part, yes. Ninety minutes and more of just a guitar and a few pedals and loops didn't really drag, though at times it was tedious and bits just didn't work. At first he seemed nervous and I wasn't sure whether he was tuning up. Once he settled in, he became more relaxed and animated, telling stories about Mingus, Jack DeJohnette and Paul Bley with suitable reverence, charm and wit, though he never mentioned Miles.

His guitar playing was bluesy, inventive and exemplary, as you'd expect from one of the most iconic jazz guitarists on the planet. Miles used to tell Mike Stern - his guitarist before, as well as and after Scofield - to go to Notes Anonymous, cos he played too many, but when we got flights of fingers, it came thick and fast and, because it was only occasional, it was quite staggering to hear.

He came back for an encore by Carla Bley but the telecaster behind him remained on its stand, which by then was a relief. 

I look forward to seeing him next time with a band.     
Steve T.

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