John Scofield in solo, loneliness and late style on #Neuguitars #blog #JohnScofield
I admit that I would not have expected this, but how is it possible? The most gregarious guitarist of all time decides to release an album in solo, at the age of seventy! This album, without title, or perhaps called by his name, could remain a unique case in his history as an improviser: only here, in fact, can he be heard playing in solo an intimate, complex and delicate music. A handful of songs, 13 to be precise, some standards, some traditional ballads, some personal pieces. A kind of musical autobiography. Scofield is one of the last gods of jazz guitar. With a formidable career behind him he has played everything and with anyone, any genre and music, managing to create a style that makes him easily identifiable and unique.
If improvisers are, as a rule, musically gregarious, preferring to work with other musicians in the most varied combinations, Scofield is the perfect example of this desire for aggregation: he has always played with other people, with anyone, ranging from duo to big bands. I believe it took these years of Covid-19 to push it in such a lonely direction. Why this choice? Did he want to know if the language he used was complete? If he could provide him with everything he wanted? Or maybe he wanted to retrace his steps, re-reading and reinvigorating his musical background? Or maybe just the pleasure of retracing such a brilliant solo career, condensing it into such a personal and unexpected album. Or, an example of a late style? It wouldn’t be so strange, in this altered time, where the present is overshadowed by other seasons: the past reviving or fading, the future immeasurable, time beyond time. To feel things in this way means to conceive a person as a crossroads, time as a body, ideas as raw and continually improvable objects. In these moments, perhaps, the necessary conditions are reached for the special sense of tardiness which is imbued with this album. A delay made not only of harmony and resolution, but also of intransigence, of difficulties and unresolved contradictions? Out of a strange sense of suspension, Scofield’s album is inside the present, but is strangely separated from it. This album is, in a sense, “destabilizing” because it replaces another time for the brutal present. A light world, in its freedom from everyday pressures and worries, and in its seemingly limitless capacity for self-indulgence and enjoyment. Fun as a form of resistance.
Identifying a retrospective time means founding a project (or an experiment) that is always subject to revision. Beginnings of this kind necessarily involve an intention that is fully or partially satisfied, or that, perhaps at a later time, still leaves room for margins of desire or failure. Do you get wiser with age? Is it true that thanks to age, artists acquire exceptional qualities of perception and form? This album implies a deliberately unproductive productivity, almost an end in itself, a closed circuit, able to survive what is acceptable and normal. Almost a kind of self-exile from normal habit, from what comes after it. An expert musician like Scofield is certainly aware of these limits, of the risk of a sclerotic repetition of languages already used in the past, of the limited use of a personal vocabulary. Loneliness, on the other hand, becomes an excuse to rebuild this vocabulary and to expand it, in the long term without doing concerts, in the lockdown. Maybe he was looking for material that was suitable for his improvisational forms and that could also facilitate them. Scofield has been able to resist the easy temptation to resort to proven and certain procedures, to that recursive, self-indulgent style more pleasing to the public. This is why I speak of deliberately unproductive productivity: Scofield wanted to seek change for its own sake. A change that has as its goal the benefits that the change itself can bring. At seventy, do you think that’s enough?