Hush now

John Scofield has gone quiet. He's swapped his electric jazz guitar for a nylon-stringed acoustic. With mellow, Gil-ish results. By Phil Johnson

John Scofield's guitar normally burrs with the sound of raw electricity running along bare wires, the strings crackling and popping as if charged with a particularly primitive power source, and the current further distressed through what he calls his "cheap and nasty" choice of foot pedals. It's a sound that, allied to a peerless technique and a talent as a composer of contrastingly delicate tunes, has made Scofield the most celebrated jazz guitarist of his generation (he's 45). His album Time On My Hands for Blue Note in 1991 remains one of the best jazz records of the decade, and he has since gone on to work in a variety of contexts, from funky jazz with Herbie Hancock to classical crossovers with Mike Gibbs and Mark Anthony Turnage. Essentially, he plays jazz guitar with a rock sound, and has done since he saw Jimi Hendrix as a student at Berklee at Boston in the late Sixties. And while Scofield's sound is unapologetically electric (especially when compared to the semi-acoustic school that for years dominated jazz guitar playing), he plays real jazz and not jazz-fusion, in spite of his post-Berklee experience as a sideman with You're Under Arrest-era Miles Davis and Tony Williams.

Now, for Quiet, the first album of his new Verve contract; Scofield has temporarily abandoned the electric guitar for a nylon-stringed acoustic, and written a set of mellow orchestral arrangements for his own tunes, complete with French horn parts, that recall the tonal textures of the late Gil Evans, the most abiding jazz influence for both Gibbs and Turnage.

Though the change in style is at first quite shocking, the album is, appropriately, quietly effective, demonstrating Scofield's prowess as a composer as much as a soloist. "I guess I was looking for something different," he says. "Especially for an album which is more romantic; I hate the word romantic but it's not quite ballads as some of the tunes have a tempo to them. I'd had a nylon-stringed guitar lying around since someone gave my daughter one years ago, and I would always pick it up; and when I played with Miles Davis he would have me play his own Ovation with nylon strings. He would say, 'That's your sound', so I thought it's something I should use. There's lots of things I can't get on it, like volume and power and sustain, but for melodic playing it inspires me."

The music of Gil Evans has been particularly close to Scofield since he first heard the classic arrangements for Miles Davis on the orchestral Columbia albums (now collected in a six-CD boxed-set by Sony), and he once lived in the same apartment building as the arranger. "He never gave me a music lesson, but just from checking him out with Miles and playing in his band at Sweet Basil's on Monday nights, I got a lot from him. I never thought to copy Gil, but for the album I picked the instrumentation he brought to jazz, using the French horns, the flugelhorn and the flutes for that lush, mellow sound. I just grew up with his sound and it came out sort of Gil-ish, but, you know, how couldn't it?"

After arranging the music on Quiet for a small orchestra, Scofield would like the opportunity of scoring for a real big band, but finding time to do the orchestrations for the album while continually away on tour proved difficult. "It took me so long to write the arrangements that I felt I came through a war," he says. "I can see how arrangers go crazy. I used to see Gerry Mulligan and he always used to complain about having to orchestrate; he said that when he had a deadline he would become physically ill, and real arrangers like him are good at all the technical stuff. There are stories about arrangers in the old big band days who would do all the parts without even writing out a score - they would keep the whole thing in their heads. I'm just a guitar player, but also I compose. But hey, it would be nice to be a composer, then I could stay home instead of being out there whacking away all the time!"n

'Quiet' by John Scofield is available on Verve CD. As part of the Oris London Jazz Festival, Scofield and his quintet play the RFH, London SE1, 14 Nov in a double-bill with the Michael Brecker Quartet. Booking: 0171- 960 4242

Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital