John Scofield

Up All Night

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It isn't surprising that John Scofield spent some time in Miles Davis' employ. Like that innovative trumpeter, Scofield has always had a restless spirit. One never knows what to expect when a new Scofield album arrives; Up All Night, it turns out, pretty much picks up where its predecessor, Überjam, leaves off. Like Überjam, Up All Night is a fusion effort that manages to be intellectual and funky at the same time. Of course, intellect and funkiness don't automatically cancel one another out -- Davis demonstrated that on many occasions. But some artists have a hard time balancing the two in an effective way. Scofield, however, inhabits a place in which the cerebral and the funky not only co-exist -- they form an alliance and work together for the common good. Brain power is an integral part of what the guitarist does on jams like "Every Night Is Ladies Night" and the African-influenced "Thikhathali," but so are grit and blues feeling. If "Thikhathali" reminds you of the late Nigerian star Fela Kuti, it is no coincidence -- the tune is meant to have a strongly Nigerian flavor. But "Thikhathali" is far from an exact replica of Kuti's jazz-influenced Afro-pop; rather, Scofield puts a fusion spin on modern Nigerian music. Similarly, "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" (a major hit for the Dramatics in 1971) is Scofield's interpretation of Detroit soul. There are plenty of smooth jazz/NAC robots who would be happy to provide a note-for-note cover of that classic, but Scofield's approach -- he gives the song an unlikely jazz/rock/funk makeover -- is much more interesting. From "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" to ten tunes that Scofield wrote or co-wrote, Up All Night is a consistently engaging addition to his sizable catalog.

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