Profile: American Jazz Guitarist John Scofield

John Scofield is probably best known to many as a sideman to Miles Davis from 1982 – 1985, but that’s not what stands out on his resume.

Why should you know him?

Scofield has been making musical history since he left Berklee College of Music to join Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. His past work has involved key jazz players like Charles Mingus and Herbie Hancock, to musicians outside the realm of jazz such as Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. stylistically he is a Chameleon, he first conquered the world of jazz guitarists, rising to become one of the “big three”; a tier that also includes Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. Scofield then proceeded to juke jazz listeners by getting down and dirty with some good ole funk.

The first time I heard of John Scofield was on the funky album Out Louder, which involved John Medeski on keys, Billy Martin on drums, and Chris Wood on bass. This collective is known as Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood. The track that summed it all up for me is called Miles Behind; somebody told the drummer it was a fast hard rock song and somebody told the guitarist it was a funk song, but it came out to be heavenly bliss.

Equipment: That Iconic Ibanez

John Scofield has endorsed Ibanez for many years and still sports a 1981 Ibanez AS – 200, which has been his primary guitar for nearly 20 years.

What in the world is a Hottentot?

When listening to Out Louder it is impossible to remain still, like much of Scofield’s work, the body involuntarily moves and irks the listener to dance. Just try listening to John Scofield’s recorded version of Hottentot and not feel Groove Elation. The whole song revolves around a Bb7 and relents only to a sly, snake in the grass, sounding chorus.

When I figured out this little tune, I had my roommates at college begging me to stop playing it all day, everyday, so please, use this abbreviated transcription for good, not evil.

John Scofield – Hottentot

Main riff over – Bb7

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Sco’s wrap up

Scofield is crazy about simplicity. This gives the lead player room to color the song with chromatic licks and clever phrasing without stepping on anyone else’s toes. Try using his Bb7 rhythm as a vamp and practice those pentatonics over it, any player could feel at home and have fun with this.

P.S. The next time you want to feel cool walking down the street listen to Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood – Out Louder.

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  • Great stuff, I’ll add a link to your site from mine which discusses blues guitar. You should put some Wes Montgomery licks up.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for the link. Keep a look out, we’ll def post something on Wes Montgomery fo sho! Thanks for the tip!!

  • Thanks for the information, it is nice to see some guitar tabs to go along with the article.

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