On Uncle John's Band, virtuoso guitarist John Scofield lets loose his improvisational spirit for a stunning double album named after the famous Grateful Dead song.
Backed by the rhythmic expertise of Vicente Archer on bass and the dynamic Bill Stewart on drums, John Scofield's trio embarks on a long strange trip that transcends genre boundaries. The album's track list ranges from Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" to Neil Young's "Old Man," from Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" to Miles Davis' timeless "Budo." Jazz standards like "Stairway To The Stars" and "Ray's Idea" also mingle seamlessly with seven original compositions from Scofield, each charged with swing, funk, and folk-inflected nuances.
The heart of Uncle John's Band lies in the trio's improvisational spirit, a musical alchemy that knows no bounds. Scofield reflects on their multi-directional versatility, simply stating, "I feel like we can go anywhere." The album opens with a rendition of "Tambourine Man" that begins in the spirit of a raga, unfolding into a lilting, country-flavored theme with Archer's heartfelt early solo setting the stage. Throughout the album, the trio embraces the structures of the compositions, weaving in and out of improvisational spaces.
While Scofield is undeniably a preeminent jazz guitarist, his musical roots in rock and blues echo unmistakably. From his early days as a guitarist, those genres shaped his playing, and their direct emotional expression remains a hallmark of his sound, irrespective of the sophisticated harmonic contexts explored in jazz. Uncle John's Band is Scofield's third foray as a leader on the ECM label, following his 2019 homage to Steve Swallow, Swallow Tales, and 2021’s introspective self-titled solo album recorded during the solitude of lockdown. Throughout his ECM discography, Scofield's range is evident, from the collaborative efforts on 1985's Bass Desires to the celebration of Tony Williams Lifetime's music on 2004’s Saudades.
Uncle John's Band showcases the trio's virtuosity and reaffirms Scofield's boundless musical curiosity, where jazz, rock, and blues all converge in celebration of improvisational brilliance.