About this Playlist
Well here it is. The most insane, neurotically curated, and downright legendary Scofield playlist you’ll ever encounter.
As a musician and jazz guitarist, I’ve been fixated on the playing and music of John Scofield, aka Sco, for well over a decade. Other than Wes Montgomery, he is my favorite guitar player. His discography is so colossal, that putting this playlist together has been something I’ve put off for a while. However, recently the documentary “Inside Scofield” was released by film maker Joerg Steineck. After I watched it, I instantly knew it was finally time to make this playlist, and tell the story through the music.
I would like to thank Wikipedia (yes I donate every year) for laying out this discography so I could do this list the way I always intended, and often do with such prolific artists: chronologically. It not only includes select songs from Sco’s albums as a leader, but also choice picks from all of his works as a sideman or guest artist. After several months in the deep depths of the Sco universe, this story ended up being told in over 300 songs that span from 1973, to his most recent 2022 solo release. 50ish years of the one and only John Scofield!
Scofield has managed to do what so many musicians desire, but so few are able to achieve: Have a sound that is completely their own, and never waiver from it for an entire career. Nobody does it quite like Sco, and if they do, it’s a tip-of-the-hat. You can always tell it’s Sco from the first note. He has so many signature moves, phrases, and sound effects that truly belong to him. He fearlessly, soulfully, creatively, and aggressively speaks through his guitar in his own original, lyrical, and unapologetic way. To be honest, when I began this journey, I expected to get fatigued fairly quickly because Sco’s playing is so robust, intense, and sometimes what jazz musicians call “out.” I found that this didn’t happen. Moving chronologically allowed me to really hear his playing develop and unfold into what it is today. And every time I felt I was on the edge too many Sco licks, or him playing so far out, he reigns me back in and balances it all out with some blues, or something so obscure and sarcastic sounding that I laugh and press on. This man is a cannonball of pure genius and he is completely in control the entire time.
There is only one Sco but I like to view his long lasting career in phases…
-The Come Up: In the 70’s Sco joined Billy Cobham and George Duke, then Miles Davis and a long list of other legendary fusion bands of the era.
-Late 80’s Early 90’s Leader: Sco made his mark as a composer and band leader making a bunch of albums and leading bands or being a sideman in bands that included greats like Steve Swallow, Bill Stewart, Larry Goldings, Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and countless others.
-The Reinvented Funkier Sco: Teaming up with Medeski Martin & Wood changed Sco’s career and the shape of the Funk Soul Jazz scene as we know it (see my Funk Soul Jazz Renewal playlist/write up.) Instead of retiring or resisting the modern landscape in the late 90’s, Sco remained open minded. His work with MMW, Uberjam Band, Gov’t Mule, Soulive, and others from this era revealed a funkier, nastier, dirtier side of Sco that I most admire. I saw the Uberjam Band at The Detroit Jazz Festival in 2014 and it will forever be in my top 10 live shows of all time.
Much like Wes Montgomery, Scofield is kind, humble, and mellow. Traits you almost wouldn’t expect from the sound of his playing. He is still out touring today and is healthy, grateful, and inspired. His latest release is a solo guitar album. Something Sco has never done before. It seems very fitting though. It’s as though Sco is sitting there alone, playing better than he ever has, with the same signature Ibanez semi-hollow guitar from the 80’s, plugged into the same old Fender amp, saying “Hey.” “Who else is still out there doing this with me? Come join me on my next album.” Peace, love, and Sco.
Playlist image by Apolo Photographer on Unsplash