Judge Adam Arseneau is out like a light with time on his hands.
Anyone who plays guitar knows who John Scofield is. Otherwise, you don't play guitar—you just own a guitar. There's a big difference. One of the most influential guitarists and composers on the jazz scene, John toured with some of the biggest names in jazz in the seventies and eighties, like Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, George Duke and others. Backed by master drummer Bill Stewart, Scofield performs at the New Morning in Paris, April 2010 a mix of original numbers and jazz standards.
John Scofield: New Morning, The Paris Concert is a no-frills, straightforward affair, just John and his band playing to an intimate crowd. And boy, can he play.
• "Ten Taken"
A veteran touring partner of Miles Davis, Scofield plays jazz guitar the way Miles played his horn: effortlessly. In the modern jazz scene, few can top Scofield in popularity and influence. A little bit avant-garde, a little bit classical, Scofield is at heart a traditionalist who occasionally steps outside the narrow confines of his own musical styling to explore new sounds. Some call it "post-bop," a natural evolution to the small-combo jazz trios and quartets of the Sixties. His solo material is fun and fresh, subtle amounts of jazz mixed with R&B, funk and rock, very commercial and friendly to the ears. He also bears a slight resemblance to my father, which makes it weird to watch, because I'm almost positive my dad can't play guitar that well.
As live concert DVDs go, John Scofield: New Morning, The Paris Concert is as low-key and bareboned as they come. You hit play, and John and his band are playing. When the credits roll, they stop. In between these two points, audiences get a solid two hours of world-class instrumental jazz. In terms of appeal, either you're a fan of guitar jazz, or you're not. There is perilously little middle ground in this regard. I dig the man, but I'd rather listen to his collaborations with Medeski, Martin, and Wood than his normal solo material. I need a bit more rhythm and percussion to get down, if you get my meaning. Still, there's no denying the smooth style and talent of Scofield and his new jazz quartet.
The DVD packaging claims John Scofield: New Morning, The Paris Concert was filmed in high-definition, but they must have a different meaning for the expression in Paris. Muddled and soft, the image is an endless sea of murky blue saturation and aliasing, with little in the way of discernable detail or fidelity. Even for a relatively low-budget concert film, this presentation is way off the mark.
Audio makes up for the visual gaffes with three sound options: a stereo PCM track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a DTS 5.1 track. The DTS track leads the way, with a well-balanced, conservatively mixed presentation that easily isolates and highlights the quartet and each note in the air. Scofield's guitar lives and breathes in the mid-range, a buttery smooth melody, punctuated by the trademark syncopated drum hits and atonal cymbal crashes of drummer Bill Stewart. Bass and piano by Ben Street and Michael Eckroth complete the mix. The Dolby Digital mix is very similar to the DTS track, with a nice soundspace in the rear channels. The PCM track is a bit strange to the ears, very sharp and punchy with thin bass, but definitely serviceable.
The only extra is an eight-minute featurette, "Soundcheck Sketches," featuring Scofield and his quartet running about Paris; it's a combination of behind-the-scenes footage and interview material.
If you are a fan of jazz guitar, there is little reason not to pick up this DVD. Even with the weak visual presentation, the true enjoyment factor is in the ears and the brain, and John Scofield: New Morning, The Paris Concert doesn't disappoint.
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