Who the hell is John Scofield? There are a few of you outside of the jazz faithful that maybe asking this question. Scofield is one of the fathers of jazz fusion and acid jazz. This Berklee College of Music alum originally took expected and familiar paths by playing with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. He soon branched out of that west coast jazz world and began playing with the likes of Charles Mingus, George Duke and Miles Davis.
Scofield’s work with Miles Davis is where I first encountered this artist. As a child the albums in my house were within a child’s reach. The one album is in my earliest memories was Bitch’s Brew.
On Sunday mornings my house was filled with the smell of fresh coffee brewing and bacon grilling. This event always had a jazz sound track and in a lot of cases it was Miles Davis and John Scofield. Luckily this is a tradition that has found its way to my home and family.
Last Sunday morning I eagerly put in John Scofield’s new release Piety Street. John Scofield’s 40ish recordings as a front man range from 1977 to present represents every flavor of rock and jazz imaginable. So what does the guitarist who has done everything do? He records a gospel album.
This album is a departure to the most recent Scofield releases. Most notable is this album is vocal heavy. Jon Cleary does an amazing job on the piano, keyboards and vocals. His voice is uplifting and inspiring. Somehow this Australian born musician evokes the spirit of rural black gospel music.
Scofield’s playing is as usual at the top of his game. For the most part his guitar is very clean and blues like. In some songs like “The Old Ship of Zion” he sounds like he has channeled the spirt of Howling Wolf. On “Something’s Got A Hold On Me’ and “Angel Of Death” John steps on a few effect boxes and gives us some classic Scofield tones. I particularly loved the tremolo in “Angel of Death”.
In a nut shell this album will satisfy any true blues, jazz or gospel fan. The album is gospel thus it is wall to wall with the message of Jesus. Not a bad bonus to have an uplifting message to go with some great music. Just in time for Easter we have – Piety Street.
1. That’s Enough
2. Motherless Child
3. It’s a Big Army
4. His Eye is on the Sparrow
5. Something’s Got a Hold on Me
6. The Old Ship of Zion
7. Ninety Nine and a Half
8. Just a Little While to Stay Here
9. Never Turn Back
10. Walk With Me
11. But I Like the Message
12. The Angel of Death
13. I’ll Fly Away