John Scofield needs no introduction. The jazz guitarist is not only a master of improvisation but has recorded with a number of jazz legends including Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood. During the 1990s, Scofield often flirted with a distorted guitar tone but kept things warm rather than fuzzy.
Scofield’s new album, This Meets That continues to walk the line of jazz-rock fusion, yet he keeps it streamlined and modern rather than falling into generic jazz clichés. The stop-go opener “The Low Road,” begins with a cacophony of random guitar hits until unloading into a meaty rock riff between some funky melody lines. A simmering horn section holds the track’s fiery guitar antics together.
The most engaging songs, however, aren’t Scofield originals. On the Charlie Rich cover, “Behind Closed Doors,” Scofield’s touch includes lush, sweeping blues licks, and “House of the Rising Sun,” has new life injected into it with Scofield trading spacey phrases with Bill Frissell. Even the Rolling Stones are given new life with a scorching cover of “Satisfaction,” which relies on a soulful ’60s swing.
Scofield misses the point on a few of his attempts. His nod to New Orleans, “Heck of a Job,” comes complete with a backbeat that would make Zigaboo Modeliste do a double-take. However, he can’t quite hit that down and dirty funk that New Orleanians are used to, and it comes off sounding weak. Still, Scofield manages to explore these different styles with confidence. This Meets That is a genre-bending journey and proves that he’s still at the top of his game.