On Friday night, Shawn and I were lucky enough to be in the audience at One Longfellow Square for a sold out solo show from the one and only John Scofield.
Wow, where to start? At the beginning, I suppose…
After a brief introduction from a venue volunteer, he came out on stage at 8pm on the dot with his semi-hollow body Ibanez, leaving his shoes in the green room. He took a seat between a couple of Fender amps, and then with a looper, and a couple of pedals, and his tremendous skills, he blew our minds for two hours.
There was very little banter, and the few words he spoke were infused with wisdom, humor, and quiet gratitude.
‘Check this out,’ he said a few times as many of us laughed softly, and then he’d launch into some tender version of ‘Alfie’ or ‘Somewhere’, or a chicken-pickin’ treatment of the Beatles ‘Julia’. Then he humorously schooled us on what he called the ‘rapey’ nature of the lyrics to ‘Slow Boat To China’ and then scorched through those 32 bars on a loop with increasingly daring harmony. He also graced us with versions of songs that I barely recognized at first, until I caught wind of the wisps of phrases from the original melodies – standards like ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Indiana’ – then right into some groove-laden versions of ‘Louie Louie’ and an unnamed new original (reading from his notes, ‘It’s called “Funk with Chords”‘) – and then gorgeous, no-frills renditions of songs like ‘Oh Danny Boy’ and ‘Easy To Remember.’ His encore – the Beatles ‘I Will’ – was a perfect end to a wild and wonderful ride through John’s musical imagination.
As I listened to him (and to the music-theory-informed giggles of the young guitar heads in the back rows behind us as John laid into this bit of outside harmony or that particular scale) I considered all the people with whom John has worked in his career since he was the same age as those students behind us – Miles, Mingus, Metheny, Medeski (just to stay in the letter M) – and, now in his 70s, how Old Man Sco would have all the reason in the world to retire from the road, retire from putting out records every year as he has since the 1970s – and yet here he was, just for us, just for the evening, in this intimate, top notch listening room in Portland, Maine, where you could hear a pin drop in between songs and phrases, each one of us leaning in as he reached for each note and grabbed just the one he wanted, never boastful in his choices, only ever seeking to serve each song and each melody and each measure and each note with the wisdom that can only come from one with as much experience, knowledge, grace, and humor as John.
‘Check this out,’ he said, and we did. He’s still out here in the world, exploring these 12 notes and inviting us to explore with him.
And he sounds precisely like himself, which is the mark of a true genius.
What an inspiration.
Thank you, John.