Orchard Guitar Festival at BGSU

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…


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…


Pat Martino swings through musical matrix as guest artist at BGSU festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jazz guitarist Pat Martino has his own perspective on music. Within a couple minutes of his telephone interview with BG Independent, he’s talking about the ancient Chinese text the I Ching, the Book of Changes. Martino’s mind has a mathematical turn. He sees the guitar, he said, “as a matrix.” “I teach it accordingly and hope through that I can open up other windows,” he said. “The guitar strings are six in number, and it’s horizontal and vertical in terms of its properties.” There’s the strings across and the fret bar down. “You literally have a matrix,” he said. The I Ching, he explained, is made up of hexagrams of six broken or unbroken lines, each with 64 variations. “The I Ching is a psychologically study, a spiritual study,” he said. “The guitar is a musical study, but it’s the same matrix.” And the performer is “a witness” in the middle of this complex of dualities – minor-major, loud-soft, fast-slow — looking back to the beginning and forward the end. Martino will share his views on music and all the areas of life it opens up as the featured artist at this year’s Orchard Jazz Festival at Bowling Green State University. He’ll perform Saturday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre on campus and give a master class earlier that day at 2:30 p.m. in the Conrad Room in the Wolfe Center for the Arts. The fusion group Marbin will perform and teach on Friday. See the full festival schedule at: http://www.bgsu.edu/musical-arts/events/orchard-guitar-festival.html. The son of a singer and guitarist, Martino entered that musical matrix as a youngster growing up in in the fertile Philadelphia music scene. There he rubbed shoulders with jazz legend John Coltrane and worked with pop stars Bobby Darin and Frankie Avalon.  He first went on the road with former schoolmate organist Charles Earland, planting the guitarist firmly in soul jazz. He moved to Harlem to immerse himself more in that scene. His reputation was such that he signed with Prestige as a 20-year-old where he was a pioneer in jazz-rock fusion. But by 1976, Martino, then in his early 30s, was experiencing seizures that eventually required surgery in 1980. The surgery severely impaired his memory. He taught himself to play guitar again, emerging back on the scene in 1987, only to take another hiatus to care for his ailing parents. He relaunched his career in 1994. In the past two decades he’s toured, recorded and taught, picking up honors along the way, including Grammy nominations and a Downbeat Reader’s Poll win as top guitarist in 2004. Martino, 72, is back touring with the venerable organ trio formation.  Part of it, he said, is practical. It’s easier and less expensive to travel with three people, and that means more…