“Chank” – John Scofield
A hot number from John Scofield has been a long time coming. A hot number from Medeski, Martin, and Wood has been even longer still.
At first I was going to systematically choose a song from each group on two consecutive weeks. But I couldn’t wait. I want to both have and eat my cake, whatever that means.
After perusing many options I just couldn’t ignore this chance to present a song off of A Go Go, one of several unbelievable collaborative albums between John Scofield and Medeski, Martin and Wood.
John Scofield, “Sco”, was educated at the Berklee College of Music, and has been releasing albums since 1977. I think I counted 37 on Wikipedia.
He is a seasoned, even chronic collaborator. And it’s no wonder why. He is considered a master of jazz fusion, funk, blues, soul, rock, and the bebop idiom, and it would seem that anytime he gets on a record he adds a new dimension to whatever is being played.
Medeski, Martin and Wood is an avant-groove jazz and funk trio formed in 1991. They are sort of the modern gold standard for experimental funk and what I would call “popular modern jazz”, which draws its influence from jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, and even corequisitely from electronic.
In todays choice, Chank, you will hear all of the aforementioned styles from both groups, albeit in varying proportions. While Medeski, Martin and Wood lay down a sick groove, especially thanks to Chris Wood on bass and Billy Martin on drums, they are really providing a layer of milky music on which Sco can glide. John Medeski does have a chance to sing on the Hammond B3 later in the song but ultimately Chank is grounded in a guitar riff that Scofield introduces in the first five seconds–half jazz-fusion, half bluesy rock—that subtly builds to him really having a chance to make the song his own about 2 minutes in. You’ll notice his incredibly precisely placed notes. Scofield is extremely well known for playing sparingly—manifesting the art of Ma in his music with his unflinching mastery of negative space. I don’t think there is a single artist out there who has such a mastery of this as he. Too often, even the best jazz and funk musicians have trouble holding back; all of these elite talented jazz guys can play a million different scales a million different ways but it’s hard to find one like Sco who knows when and how to hold back, how to both avoid an akward silence and avoid cramming a song full of notes otherwise.
Please turn it up, enjoy, and share.