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John Scofield-Live at The Dakota (Minneapolis 2-25-17 Early Show) – Country For Old Men – Live

February 26, 2017

Last fall Scofield released Country For Old Men. The idea was to jazz up a bunch of classic country songs.  A few months later it was announced that Scofield was touring and he would be visiting Minneapolis’ Dakota jazz club.  The tour was would feature the Country For Old Men album.  I thought about going and promptly forgot about it. However, my lovely bride did not forget and bought tickets as a Valentine’s Day present.

It was a great show.   Sco played seven songs from the album (and two that could have easily been on the album) with his fine band (Bill Stewart on drums, Larry Goldings on piano and organ and Vicente Archer on bass).

The band kicked it off with a George Jones  classic “Mr Fool,” which also kicks off the album. It sets the template for the album: take a great melody, deconstruct it and put back together.

Then Sco played  “Mama Tried” a Merle Haggard song. After that song Sco introduced the band and recited lyrics from the song:

“And I turned twenty-one in prion doing life without parole.

No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried.

Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.

That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried.”

Next he played the Dolly Parton gem “Jolene.”  It was fun to see what a jazz cat can do with a great melody. “Jolene” is such a familiar song it is easy to follow the deconstruction.

Sco made a few false starts reciting the lyrics to the song James Taylor wrote for George Jones “Bartender’s Blues.”

“But I got four walls around me, to hold my life

To keep me from going astray

And a honky-tonk angel, to hold me tight

To keep me from slipping away”

But there were no misses when he played the song. 

Sco and the band made the Hank Williams classic “I Am So Lonesome I Could Cry” into a spaced out bop with Goldings making his mark on the organ.  The band followed up with another Hank song: “You Win Again” one of the two songs in the set that are not on the album.

Great jazz artists can take the most banal pop song and make it shine.  That is exactly what Sco did with Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One.” That turned out to be the highlight of the set.

Sco turned Buck Owens’ “Together Again” into gospel.  This was the second song not on the album.

Sco closed out the set with The Carter Family’s “Wildwood Flower.” Sco introduced the song with some country picking and then took a jazz left turn, only to end the song with country picking.

Scofield has gorgeous tone on his guitar and he has a broad taste: soul jazz, straight ahead jazz, jazz rock, folk jazz, jam band rock, blues and now country jazz.  Taking classic country melodies and jazzing them up is a great concept and it is magical in the hands of an open-minded artist like Scofield.  Add a sympathetic band and you have something very special.

I liked the album Country For Old Men a lot when I first heard it and it won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental, but it never quite resonated with me like some of his other albums.  Seeing him live, these songs really popped.  I now fully appreciate the subtleties of the album. Some times you need to be hit over the head at a live show to get it. Great album and great show.


From → Music Reviews

  1. Sounds like a great gig. I have several albums from many phases of his career and he seems to be always looking for new directions to take his music.

  2. I had to pop in for this. Wish I was there. Had no idea that John cut this album. I will certainly put it on the wish list. Know all those tunes except the Twain cut. (I’ll take your word on the Shania tune. I have heard other artists do the same thing). I’m a Big Haggard guy. Back to 2014 for CB

  3. Yeah, I did a post on Coryell which was, sadly, effectively an obit. I had commented on your earlier Coryell post from a couple months ago. Who knew he’d pass so soon?

    As to Scofield, another terrific guitarist. Good post. I saw him once at the Blue Note in NYC. The thing about NY is if you escape the gravitational pull of shows at Times Square, you can hear so much great music. At any point in time, some great in some genre is playing somewhere. The Scofield show was no event, just another day. I was there on business and went solo. Tiny club, so close, me and the five buddies at my table were practically on stage. Agree he’s well worth seeing.

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