6 Essential John Scofield Albums

01
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Loud Jazz (Gramavision)

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Gramavision

This is not to imply that Scofield’s first dozen solo albums were not up to standard. His two records from ‘77 -- East Meets West and his live set -- were fine efforts as were his two 1981 offerings, Out Like A Light and Shinola.

But it was this record from 1987, with his longstanding group of keyboardist Robert Aries, bassist Gary Grainger and drummer Dennis Chambers that the Sco’ style really began to shine.

Highlights on this record of 11 Scofield originals are the thematic urban funk of “Dance Me Home,” the quirky jitter of one of his signature pieces, “Dirty Rice” and the chunky thunky “Wabash.” There’s nothing demure about anything on this record and, though it’s loud by downtown standards, it’s definitely loud enough.

Recommended.

02
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Meant To Be (Blue Note)

Long a favorite of fans and critics alike, Scofield’s 1990 Blue Note debut, Meant To Be, finds Sco channeling his inner post bopper, working without a net (or a keyboard player).

Another signature Scofield piece, “Big Fan” swings hard while “Keep Me In Mind,” with the contribution of the increasingly powerful Joe Lovano, is sharply humorous. Marc Johnson and Bill Stewart hold court with a firm hand on “Mr. Coleman To You” while “Some Nerve” races down the street with New Orleans verve. One of Lovano’s finer moments as a sideman.

Very diverse and highly recommended. 

03
of 06

Time On My Hands (Blue Note)

Scofield has always been pretty prolific, turning out at least one studio album a year since the late 70s. Some years he managed to cut a second set, as was the case in ‘90 when he followed Meant To Be with this set.

This one encores Lovano in the saxophonist chair with one of jazz’s most formidable rhythm sections, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette, managing bass and drum duties.

Stylistically, it’s Meant To Be, Part II, with Sco’s quartet circling their wagons around a fusion of funk and bop, all presented with a glossy post 80s sheen. “Stranger To The Light” is a sneaky swinger, with hints of Coltrane and Wes Montgomery in the mix, with “Farmacology” and “So Sue Me” not far behind. A highlight of the record is the bluesy “Time And Tide,” which finds DeJohnette at subtle best.

Also strongly recommended.

04
of 06

Hand Jive (Blue Note)

Scofield’s fifth of seven 90s-era Blue Note records would be better described as a duo record with saxophonist with Eddie Harris, who held harmonic hands with Sco throughout the set.

“I’ll Take Less” is a nice homage to the era before fusion and organist percussive contribution to “Golden Gaze” drives the song’s inner harmonies with verve and energy. “Whip The Mule” is as ballsy as any New Orleans fusion before or since.

Recommended. 

05
of 06

Uberjam (Verve)

The first 14 years of Scofield’s work in the 21st are bookended by two definitive fusion records recorded with Adam Deitch and Avi Bortnick under the Uberjam moniker. T

hey're jazzy in their approach -- spontaneous and free-spirited AND willing to draw on all the musical languages of the time. In this instance, there’s hip hop and glitch rock built into the mix on tunes like the opener, “Acidhead,” and it’s companion, “Ideofunk.” In spite of the all the influences -- and a fair amount of noisiness -- the band’s always invested in bringing forth the melody and preserving the groove.

Recommended.

06
of 06

Uberjam Deux (Emarcy)

Scofield’s reprise of the Uberjam concept, released on Emarcy in 2013, brings him full circle with the concept and has won him new fans among those who like jam bands like String Cheese Incident and Railroad Earth. The fact he covered the Main Ingredient’s “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” speaks volumes about Scofield’s willingness to cover all the bases, while never leaving his jazz music home. 

Warmly recommended.