Uncle John's Band

Uncle John's Band

Uncle John's Band

Uncle John's Band

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Overview

Despite being associated with ECM for decades as a collaborator and sideman, it's surprising that Uncle John's Band is only the third leader date for guitarist John Scofield. Over two discs and 14 tracks, Scofield and his longstanding trio -- double bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart -- reflect their performing persona rather than their recording one. Live, they let the music they play determine their direction, not a set list. Scofield penned half these tracks and they're sequenced among cover versions of iconic folk, rock, jazz, and show tunes. A case for the latter is the set opener, a reading of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Scofield kicks it off in droning Indian raga style, using his leads above modal chords as Stewart's cymbals and bells and Archer's guiding bassline add ballast. "TV Band" a strutting, swaggering post-bop funk jam. The guitarist and bassist unfold the progression and follow the verse melody before opening a delicate, lyrical improvisation in the guitar solo. "How Deep" is a 32-bar bop tune that swings hard amid arpeggiated solos and fours traded among string players. "Back in Time" openly cross-references "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "Greensleeves," and "Scarborough Fair" amid its dark Americana tempered with blues. Miles Davis' "Budo" (essentially a Bud Powell tune with a bridge) is rendered as modern bebop and swings like mad. "Nothing Is Forever" is introduced by Archer and Stewart before the guitarist layers silvery chord voicings in a syncopated progression that kisses blues, bossa, and post-bop atop the rhythm section's lithe groove. The disc closer is a fleet, rockist reading of Neil Young's "Old Man." With the electric guitar taking the place of a human voice as the lyric instrument, Scofield makes limpid changes to harmony, color, texture, and tempo, moving the proceeding from pop song into exploratory, post-bop in his solo. The trio returns to swing out the melody in closing. Disc two offers truly moving readings of standards "Stairway to the Stars," a pop ballad from the late 1930s, and Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story theme "Somewhere." There isn't a nostalgic note in the trio's graceful presentations of these songs -- they offer sparse phrasing, lush, graceful lyricism, a spectral rhythmic pulse, and spacy atmospherics. "Mo Green," an original, sways and slips across NOLA-styled R&B (thanks to Stewart's canny drumming), soul-jazz, and Latin grooves. The title-track set closer is a cover of the iconic Grateful Dead tune that opened 1970's Workingman's Dead. Scofield's fingerpicking of the simple melody is striking; it captures the softer side of Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia's complex musical personality. The trio use the tune's melody to quote and weave in luminous threads from country, folk, bluegrass, and children's nursery rhymes. They add rhythmic complexity to stretch parameters as Scofield traces then extends harmonic invention via modern jazz. Though Scofield's recordings are always high quality, Uncle John's Band captures this trio's spontaneity, magic, and risk-taking in a recording studio for the very first time. ~ Thom Jurek

Product Details

Release Date: 10/13/2023
Label: Ecm
UPC: 0602455725509
Rank: 27303

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Mr. Tambourine Man
  2. How Deep
  3. TV Band
  4. Back in Time
  5. Budo
  6. Nothing Is Forever
  7. Old Man

Disc 2

  1. The Girlfriend Chord
  2. Stairway to the Stars
  3. Mo Green
  4. Mask
  5. Somewhere
  6. Ray's Idea
  7. Uncle John's Band

Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Scofield   Primary Artist,Guitar
Vicente Archer   Primary Artist,Double Bass
Bill Stewart   Primary Artist,Drums

Technical Credits

Matty Malneck   Composer
Christoph Stickel   Mastering Engineer
Sascha Kleis   Design
Tyler McDiarmid   Engineer,Recording,Mixing Engineer
Nick Suttle   Photography
Fotini Potamia   Cover Photo
Jerome Garcia   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Frank Signorelli   Composer
Leonard Bernstein   Composer
Jerry Garcia   Composer
Neil Young   Composer
Raymond Brown   Composer
Miles Davis   Composer
Mitchell Parish   Composer
Bud Powell   Composer
Gil Fuller   Composer
Manfred Eicher   Producer,Executive Producer
John Scofield   Composer,Liner Notes
Robert Hunter   Composer
Stephen Sondheim   Composer
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