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John Scofield Trio

Last Friday night we headed downtown to see John Scofield (my favorite guitarist) at the Zellerbach Theater. The show didn't start until 8:00, so we had time to work dinner into our plans. Anne thought we should try Cavanaugh's, which sounded appealing, and it was. It's a casual student hangout on Penn's campus about two blocks from the theater, and even at that early hour on a Friday evening was crowded and noisy.

They boast a large selection of beers, although there's no actual list that I could find. I fancied a Negra Modelo with my sausage sandwich, but alas that's one they didn't have. I had a Flying Fish (draft) instead. The food was excellent. I wish I had known about this place when I was a student.

In the lobby of the Zellerbach, there was a small jazz group playing. The players in this group were drawn from the Penn Jazz Ensemble. After the number, a snappily-dressed student invited us to see the band play immediately following the concert. Admission was free with ticket stub. Not bad.

Although this post is entitled “John Scofield Trio,” it's really about John Scofield's drummer, Bill Stewart. I first became aware of Bill's work from the Scofield album “Hand Jive.” That's still one of my favorite CDs ever, in large part because of Stewart's contribution. Scofield liked him, too; they worked together for five years. Bill reappeared on the last Scofield album, EnRoute, recorded live at the Blue Note in New York. He sounded better than ever.

Although this show was billed as the John Scofield Trio, I didn't make the connection that the trio would include Bill, although typically the tour band is similar if not identical to the one on the most-recent release. (Just as typically, however, the tour band does not include the same members for a number of reasons.) Anyway, I was thrilled at the unexpected treat of hearing Bill live. It's a challenge to describe his style in words, but I can say that he reminds me most of the young Tony Williams with whom he shares a fresh, creative approach to accompanying and soloing; always surprising, yet never jarring. I should also mention how much I enjoyed veteran bassist Steve Swallow's exquisitely lyrical solos.

You can check out a video of Bill soloing with the John Scofield band at Drummer World.