John Scofield's newest ECM Records release, "Uncle John’s Band," introduces a revamped trio featuring Vincente Archer in place of Steve Swallow. This double CD set offers an engaging musical journey that captures the essence of Scofield's live performances. The trio’s improvisational spirit takes center stage in a wide range of compositional moods, all rooted in grooves, common to many Scofield tunes. The galvanizing effect of Archer's bass work injects a fresh energy into the group, diverging from Swallow's meticulous precision and logic, and challenging any comfort zones established over the decades.
The album's repertoire is as diverse as it is engaging, encompassing tracks from Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" to Neil Young's "Old Man," and from Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" to Miles Davis' "Budo." Jazz standards like "Stairway to the Stars" and "Ray's Idea" share space with seven of guitarist Scofield's own compositions, spanning swing, funk, and folk influences. Throughout, the trio's improvisational verve weaves a common thread, creating a sense of boundless exploration.
While Scofield's jazz mastery is well-documented, his musical journey has always been characterized by an open-minded approach. "Uncle John’s Band" pays homage to his roots in rock and blues, adding a layer of emotional expression that resonates within even the most complex harmonic contexts. Scofield's history as a collaborator in the rock jam band scene, including contributions to Phil Lesh's groups, connects directly to the Grateful Dead-inspired title.
Archer, a revered figure in the bass world, makes his ECM debut on "Uncle John’s Band." His history of collaborating with top-tier artists speaks to his exceptional talent. Drummer Bill Stewart, who has worked with luminaries such as Joe Lovano and Pat Metheny, is also a vital component of the trio, providing more than just rhythm but contributing melodic counterpoint and swinging sensibilities.
The recording was made at Clubhouse Studio in Rhinebeck, New York, in August 2022, and Scofield himself provides liner notes, offering insights into each track.
The first CD showcases a rendition of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and other tracks like "How Deep" and "Budo" that display agile jazz maneuvers executed with verve. Scofield's original compositions "TV Band" and "Nothing is Forever" stand out with their infectious groove and emotional resonance.
The second CD explores a more elastic musical landscape, featuring highlights like the fragile jazz ballad "Stairway to the Stars," the soulful jazz-rock of "Mo Green," and the exemplary jazz-funk of "Mask," leaving ample room for Bill Stewart's brilliant drum work.
"Uncle John’s Band" showcases Scofield's enduring creativity, marked by clear sound quality and fresh musical ideas. Available in various formats including CD, Vinyl, and Hi-Res download. It is a must have for Scofield enthusiasts, offering a delightful collection of eclectic tunes infused with his signature electric vibe.
Released October 13, 2023.
CD, Vinyl, and Digital Download, Also available on Streamings Services.