A Conversation With John Scofield
(This is part of an interview with the great John Scofield from the Boston rock examiner- JB)
DG: Sometimes, an artist can emerge as both forerunner and innovator - the name Jaco Pastorius comes to mind...
SCO: Yeah, I got a chance to work with him as well - not a whole lot, though. We were contemporaries. The connection between me and Jaco was Pat Metheny. I knew Pat from my Berklee days, though it happened after I'd already dropped out. I was still in touch with many of the faculty, however. Metheny was one of those - he had to be youngest guy to ever teach music at Berklee, and we became friends. I remember us hanging out one day, and Pat was telling me about this bass player who lived in Florida, whom he said was the greatest bass player in the world. Part of you wants to greet that statement with a healthy degree of skepticism, but I knew Pat wasn't the sort of person to make grandiose declarations: I said, "Really? The greatest bass player in the world? Are you sure?" and Pat said, "I know it sounds weird to say, but yeah - it's true." So Pat brought him up to Boston to play with him in 1974, the same year I was gigging with Mulligan. A year later, I got a chance to meet him, and I was totally blown away by his playing. We didn't play a lot together, but most folks know of our collaboration through Jaco's instructional music video, which has me playing alongside him and Kenwood Dennard. The video has taken on a life of its own on Youtube - I believe the tape was produced shortly before his death in 1987.
....... The man was an avatar, you know? He showed up, and was around for what seems like a minute, a flash. I remember that album with the head shot cover, too. That record came out before his stint with (jazz fusion ensemble) Weather Report. I heard it shortly after its release, and it was like - everything I ever tried to do as a jazz musician, this guy could do, and really well. He moved effortlessly from jazz to funk, even classical. And then I realized this cat was the same age as me, and was even more impressed. The later years, and his downfall - to me, was just incredibly sad. Hearing about it from afar through witnesses, while I was back in the city, was just.........goddamn. Nobody has ever played those idioms on bass like him, and no one ever will.
DG: I've had this ongoing debate with jazz artists and music critics for years: to me, the new generation of jazz musicians are all savants, so far as technical virtuosity goes, but creatively, something seems missing. To quote Keith Jarrett (from the liner notes to his album, Spirits): "Musicians can and do fool themselves every day when they say they are "making music." They mean they are playing their instrument very well. What's lacking is value, meaning..."
SCO: It's kinda like being in the NBA these days - the level has gotten so high in terms of virtuosity, but then, where do you go from there? If someone who's a genius happens to be a virtuoso, they've developed that virtuosity, and imbued it with soul, an appreciation for beauty and a sense of individual style or taste. But to be simply virtuosic, it demands you spend all your time working on the perfecting of technique, and if you do that, it's easy to lose sight of the value and meaning in the art of creation for its own sake.
Read the rest of the interview HERE