Since his recording debut in the late 1970s John Scofield has not just become one of the leading voices in jazz guitar but one of the most interesting and consistently fresh-sounding masters of the instrument. Among Scofield’s current projects is the Organic Trio, featuring drummer Greg Hutchinson and keyboardist Larry Goldings.
The trio is in part a celebration of Scofield’s long-standing friendship with the Goldings as well as a celebration of shared musical interests.
“I first heard him in New York City in the early ‘90s,” Scofield says, “when he was first coming on the scene there. I loved his playing. We started playing together back then and we’ve made a few albums together over the years.”
Those albums include Hand Jive, which also featured Eddie Harris, Groove Elation, and A Moment’s Peace. “The organic trio has its own material,” he says. “But we also do some jazz standards and some funky stuff.”
The repertoire includes some selections from Scofield’s tribute to Ray Charles, What I Say, which Goldings was also part of. Scofield says that one thing you won’t hear at any of his shows is a simple run down of his greatest hits.
And for good reason.
“We don’t have any hits in jazz,” he says with a laugh, “so nobody cares if you play your songs from 20 years ago. If you’re like the Eagles or something, you gotta play that stuff. That’s what people came for. But when people come to hear us, they just come to hear us play. Some of the fans would like to hear this one song from an old album but it’s not the whole bunch. If Paul McCartney plays a gig he’s got to do ‘Yesterday.’ But we don’t have to.”
Scofield has long been embraced by fans outside the jazz world but especially so in the last 20 years, in part because of his association with the instrumental, genre-bending band Medeski, Martin & Wood. He’s recorded two studio albums with that band and continues to tour with the trio to this day. Perhaps unexpectedly he was warmly embraced by the jam band movement, which includes offshoots from the Grateful Dead as well as acts such as Phish and The String Cheese Incident. Each of these acts works at breaking down various musical barriers, including those between rock and jazz.
Scofield says that it only made sense for him to embrace that scene as well. His playing draws on more than just jazz—there’s rock and blues and R&B. Why not, he says, build upon the foundations of jazz and inject it with some fresh perspectives?
“The jazz concepts that we all love and that are great are pretty old. A lot of the things that made jazz were from the first part of the twentieth century. Other things have happened that have been very jazz related. I always felt—especially being a guitar player—that those elements were part of me because I did start with rock. So, it’s been pretty natural to use them—and to use jazz too—but all together in one little thing.”
John Scofield performs with the Organic Trio (featuring Larry Goldings and Greg Hutchinson) at the historic Fox Theater in Newton Friday night at 6 and 8:30pm.