By Noah Hubbell
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John Scofield's never been one to settle in any particular musical style. While he always comes back to bop in one way or another, the chameleonic guitarist is equally deft in soul-jazz, funk and fusion. Lately, when he hasn't been on the road, he's been working on bottleneck slide guitar. Scofield recently took time out from touring and working on a new album with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart to talk with us.
Westword: How different is it playing with Steve Swallow now versus those records you did with him in 1981 -- Out Like a Light and Shinola?
John Scofield:Actually, I'm not even sure how it's changed, because it's so much a part of my life. I've been playing with Steve longer than I've played with any other musician. I met him a few years before Out Like a Light; I was just starting out, and he was one of the first great musicians I met in my early twenties. I think I got better, and I know he did, too. He's changed, but we're the same, too. It's funny, since we've been playing with Bill Stewart for the last ten years -- he wasn't on Shinola and Out Like a Light -- it's really become this great unit. They're my favorite people to play with; I feel like we can do anything. We do a lot of different types of stuff. And the trio thing is pretty open, since it's just the three of us, so everybody has to carry their own weight. Luckily, Bill and Steve play so melodically that if you just listen to them playing by themselves, it's cool on its own.
Well, you know, what I tell people is that I've been really lucky to play with a lot of my idols. Just this year, I played with McCoy Tyner on his new record, with Ron Carter on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. And we played a couple of Coltrane tunes. That was just unbelievable, to play with those master musicians -- even though I played with them for all of about fifteen minutes, since it was just two tunes. But I've had so many great experiences. I've been lucky to have been around, and a lot of these guys are gone now that I got to play with who are from the older jazz generation. I get inspired by younger musicians, as well. People twenty years younger than me, or even thirty years younger, can make me very excited. I can't say it would be my dream to play with one person. I'm sure there are people out there. But there's nothing like playing with people like Steve and Bill and watching the music develop.