Active since the 1970s and highly visible from the early 1980s onward, when he was a sideman for Miles Davis, jazz guitar great John Scofield continues to grow as an artist, producing some of his most timeless work 30 years into his career. One of the principal innovators of modern jazz, the musician, composer and arranger has crafted a distinctive sound that falls somewhere between post-bop, fusion and funk. His more than three dozen albums are testament to the stylistic chameleon's inexhaustible musical curiosity.
Boston, here I come
Born in Dayton, Ohio, on December 26, 1951, Scofield grew up in suburban Connecticut. Inspired by rock and blues players, he first picked up the guitar at age 11. From 1970 to 1973, the budding musician studied at Berklee College and performed in venues around Boston.
During the mid-1970s, he made his first recording with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan at Carnegie Hall, later entering the studio with Charles Mingus, and replaced Pat Metheny in Gary Burton's quartet.
The guitarist started his career as a band leader in 1980. Forming a trio with double bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum (who was later replaced by Bill Stewart), he released Bar Talk.
In 1982, Scofield was thrust into the spotlight when he began touring and recording with Miles Davis, contributing to three of the visionary trumpeter's albums: Decoy, Star People and You're Under Arrest. During that time, he also released Electric Outlet (1984) and Still Warm (1985), two albums of original songs that highlighted his talent for composing.
The guitarist made his first appearance at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 1987. He came back in 1989, this time sharing the bill with axeman extraordinaire Bill Frisell. The same year, Scofield signed with the renowned Blue Note label. During his time there, he played with such musical luminaries as McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and Toots Thielemans, as well as contemporary favourites Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano.
In 1996, Scofield switched to Verve Records and released Quiet, an acoustic album that featured the rich sound texture of a nine-piece brass section. His follow-up, A Go Go (1997), explored a raw funk groove in the company of avant-garde jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood.
That same year, Scofield came to the Festival to perform as part of the all-star cast of Herbie Hancock's New Standards concert. He returned in 1998 to play an impressive seven concerts, proving the musician was still at the peak of his art - and physical - form.
Never one to stay stuck on a particular sound for too long, Scofield left his funk flavoured licks at the door and returned to his jazz roots on Works for Me (2001). He then paid tribute to R&B legend Ray Charles on That's What I Say (2005) with the help of an eclectic ensemble of guest musicians, including New Orleans fixture Dr. John, songstress Mavis Staples (of Staples Sisters fame) and pop-blues star John Mayer.
Scofield made his 11th visit to the Festival in 2007. Two years later, he added yet another musical genre to his repertoire with Piety Street, a gospel album as interpreted by the master arranger. He followed with 54 (2010), A Moment's Peace (2011) and Überjam 2 (2013).