John Scofield

Jazz guitar master John Scofield takes wing at BGSU festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jazz guitarist John Scofield is devoted to the art of improvisation, even when he’s presenting a master class. “Improvising to me is as natural as music,” he said at Bowling Green State University Saturday, The headliner for the Orchard Guitar Festival said he was there to answer questions. “I don’t have any teaching system,” Scofield said. “I do talk a lot” Everyone, whether or not they go to music school, is self-taught, he said.  “You have to teach yourself especially jazz. “ Ultimately, the self-described “music nerd” went into music because he liked it. “The more you learn about music, the more you learn it comes out of you, not the instrument.” The doors of Bryan Recital Hall were locked, he said in jest, and no one gets out without asking a question. Scofield said questions could be about anything, and even include “a plug for your band.” He told the first person who posed a question that he could leave now. He didn’t, and none of the other 100 or so attendees did either. For an hour Scofield, 65, talked about the lessons he’s learned in his almost 50 years as a professional musician. “I haven’t had a real job since Arnold Palmer’s Dry Cleaners.” Here was someone those in the audience, at least half of whom were guitarists, had heard on record, both his own, and with legends such as Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, and Charles Mingus. Asked about advice for prospective professionals, he said being able to get along with other musicians was key. “It’s a group effort,” he said. “If you make someone else sound good, they’re going to want to work with you.” He was asked what the most important element for jazz was rhythm, harmony or melody. “Melody that’s the la-la-la?” he responded, before saying unequivocally, “rhythm.” That’s the roots of the music. “Jazz is first of all song and dance,” he said.  “Jazz came from African-Americans playing this way, this different kind of music. They took the same songs and swung them and made American music.” Scofield then started singing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” at first as John Philip Sousa intended, then gradually loosening the rhythm, and swinging, ending with a dollop of improvised melody. “That rhythm thing is so important. … You have to internalize it.” But Scofield said learning theory is also essential. Scofield, who had an early love for the blues, talked about one of his idols, Howlin’ Wolf. He was so enthusiastic about sharing the bluesman’s music he placed his phone next to his guitar pickup and played Howlin’ Wolf for everyone. The bluesman, toward the end of his life, was studying music theory by mail, Scofield said. “If Howlin Wolf wants to learn about music theory, then music theory must be the best.” And retired guitar professor Chris Buzzelli used his question to ask: “Are you going to play?” Scofield said sure, and then let his host Ariel Kasler pick a tune. “All the Things You Are,” Kasler suggested. Then he showed, with Kasler’s support on second guitar, why they were all spending part of their Saturday afternoon hanging with Scofield. True to form, Scofield brought a raw blues edge, executed with flawless technique, to the Jerome Kern evergreen. It was a…


Master guitarist John Scofield brings street smarts to class at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For jazz guitarist John Scofield was coming up as a teenager in Connecticut in the late 1960s, his classrooms were the Fillmore East, the Village Vanguard and other New York City music hotspots. His teachers were the stars on stage, Jimi Hendrix, Thelonious Monk, B.B. King, and Miles Davis. His school bus was the train into the city and then back where his parents were waiting to pick him up at 1 a.m. the next morning. They were all maybe a little naïve, he conceded. “It was dangerous.” But he’s survived to become part of the scene, and one of the most respected guitarists in music, playing straight-ahead and groove-based jazz. On Saturday he’ll travel to Bowling Green State University to headline the Orchard Guitar Festival. Scofield studied guitar from the time he was 11. He studied all styles. His first love was the blues, but he didn’t see a place for himself in the blues. Instead after his guitar teacher introduced him to jazz, he headed down that path. Yes, there was a stage band back in his high school, but “it was pretty bad.” He only knew one person in his town who played jazz, a teacher who played piano on the side. Unlike now when jazz has become an academic subject, then it was a music of the streets. When it came time for him to go to college, there was only one option to study jazz guitar, Berklee College of Music in Boston. Scofield joined a long line of noted musicians for whom the school was a way station. After two years, he was working with big names including Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and dropped out. He headed to New York where gigs with many of his heroes awaited, including a three-year stint in the 1980s with Miles Davis. Does he regret not getting a degree? “I never wish I had the paper. I’ve made my money playing.” Teaching doesn’t interest him. “I see young people getting degrees now because not enough playing opportunities.” Granted the “top dollar” jobs were always at a premium but “there were more opportunities to play for money back then.” At BGSU Scofield will perform a free concert Saturday at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center. Earlier in the day at 3 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, he’ll give master class. In that class, he’ll share some of what he’s picked up in almost 50 years on the scene. He said he’s frequently asked particularly about what he learned from Miles Davis. “What I learned is this thing in jazz about improvising, and how great it can be, and how you’re setting yourself up to do that with other musicians in a situation where they can be the most creative they can be. That’s better than a tight, rehearsed recitation. It was wonderful to have it stated to me, not only in words, but in deeds.” Scofield is just one of several guest guitarists at the Orchard Guitar Festival, which begins Friday, Sept. 29. Friday will featured master classes by Stephen Aron at 3:30 p.m., Craig Wagner at 4, and Fareed Haque and Goran Ivanovich at 4:30, followed by a concert at 7 featuring those four guitarists. At noon…


Stars align at BGSU as College of Music welcomes famed guest artists

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts has some special acts in the wings. Lindsay Gross, the college’s manager of public-community relations, can’t help but show her own enthusiasm for what’s in store for the coming academic year – five internationally acclaimed artists who will share their gifts with the community. And all the events related to these residencies are open to public for free. Why wouldn’t Gross be excited? She’s a jazz bass trombonist, and the first guest in September is the American Brass Quintet, a pioneering ensemble that uses bass trombone, not tuba, as its lowest voice. And closing run of guest artists during Jazz Week in late March will be Maria Schneider, the most esteemed living composer for large jazz ensemble. Schneider has won Grammys not only for her jazz work but also for her arrangement on David Bowie’s song “Sue.” And for her collaboration with soprano Dawn Upshaw, who will visit BGSU a week before she arrives. Visits scheduled are: American Brass Quintet, residency Sept.20-22, with a concert Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. Jazz guitarist John Scofield, Sept. 30, a master class and concert at 8 p.m. as part of the two-day Orchard Guitar Festival that starts Sept.29. Opera composer Jake Heggie, keynote lecture at 8 p.m. on Oct. 22 and residency Oct. 23-24, as part of the Edwin H. Simmons Creative Mind Series. Vocal superstar Dawn Upshaw, recital March 18 at 8 p.m. and residency March 19-20, as the Helen McMaster Professorship in Vocal and Choral Arts. Maria Schneider, residency from March 28-30, with a concert March 30 of Schneider conducting the Jazz Lab I band performing her compositions. (All concerts and lectures in Kobacker Hall. More details will be forthcoming on BG Independent News closer to each event.) All the artists will interact with BGSU students, and as much as possible with the community as well. Gross said she is arranging a session with the American Brass to work with high school students on playing chamber music. The quintet members will also be working with university brass students. The quintet, which has been dedicated to performing new music since its founding on 1960, will also discuss its extensive commissioning of new works with student composers. In addition to working with music students including vocalists performing his songs, Heggie will talk with students in English and Creative Writing about setting literary works to music. Heggie wrote an opera based on “Moby Dick,” and has set the poetry of Walt Whitman, to music. Gross said she feels that these artists have something to offer all students. This constellation of musical stars came together through series that are already in place. The American Brass Quintet and Schneider’s visit is being funded by the Dorothy E. and DuWayne Hansen Musical Arts Series, which was established in 1996. The Creative Minds Series was established in 2014 to “to elevate the importance of the arts in our everyday lives,” according to a university press release at the time. The Orchard Guitar Festival, funded by BGSU alumni Thomas and Martha Orchard, is in its third year. On Friday, Sept.29, four guitarists will teach and perform. Stephen Aron, who teaches classical guitar at Oberlin College, Craig Wagner, jazz guitarist from the University of Louisville,…