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My new interview with the Groovemaster Jerry Jemmott

10 Apr

Jerry Jemmott’s groove is the bedrock of guitarist B.B. King’s career defining hit, “The Thrill is Gone.” He was in the studio with Duane Allman and singer Wilson Pickett recording “Hey Jude,” a track that was instrumental in launching the late Allman Brothers Band guitarist’s musical career; and they were together again for flautist Herbie Mann’s Push Push (Atlantic, 1971), Allman’s first and only jazz sessions, and the last full album he recorded prior to his death on October 29, 1971. Jemmott was also there on December 13, 1968, when guitarist Mike Bloomfield called another six-stringer, an unknown Johnny Winter, up onstage at the Fillmore East—a Friday the 13th that turned out to be Winter’s lucky day.

Jemmott was with singer Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul herself, when she conquered San Francisco’s hippie community at the Fillmore West in March of 1971. The album, drawn from this series of concerts (with a surprise appearance by singer Ray Charles), earned her a gold record, and was something she would later refer to as a highlight of her career.

Jerry Jemmott’s blues credits are truly remarkable: in addition to B.B. King, Freddie King, Mike Bloomfield, Duane Allman, Otis Rush, Johnny Winter, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, there’s his legendary association with Cornell Dupree, Bernard Purdie, and King Curtis. In my last column, Jimmy Herring had this to say about him: “He’s a genius, there’s just nobody like him. He’s the sound that defined an entire generation. I love Jerry Jemmott, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Another of his seminal achievements, which will no doubt be watched by generations yet unborn, was his collaboration with Jaco Pastorius on the instructional video Modern Electric Bass (1985). Even beyond its instructional value, because it was done so close to Pastorius’ death on September 21, 1987, it provides an invaluable insight into this extraordinary musician and composer. Pastorius had this to say about Jerry Jemmott: “He was my idol. That stuttering kind of bass line, bouncing all around the beat but keeping it right in the groove—well, they don’t call Jerry the Groovemaster for nothing. He’s the best.”

In this extensive interview Jerry Jemmott speaks about all this, as well as his wide ranging session work for Atlantic Records, and his current gig with blues/rock legend Gregg Allman.

Read the interview here.

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Left-Handed Blues

22 Apr

When it comes to the blues, that lonesome road takes a sharp left turn.

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John Scofield Interview: Talkin’ Blues

1 Apr

2013 UPDATE:  You can now download the audio of this interview, or stream it here

John Scofield is one of the world’s most influential and respected guitarists, a musician and composer who has worked with many of the greatest names in jazz: Chet Baker, Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan and scores of others. His 30 plus solo recordings have taken his fans on a remarkably wide-ranging musical journey – from straight ahead jazz, bebop, and fusion, to funky experimental outings with Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood, and even gospel jazz fusion with his Piety Street Band.  On his current album 54 (Emarcy, 2010), he is backed by a 50 plus piece orchestra, complete with strings, harps, brass, and woodwinds, and, as always, he somehow manages to play in a way that appeals to jazz aficionados and discerning guitarheads.

Fans of Soulive, Phil Lesh & Friends, Govt. Mule, and John Mayer are well aware that John Scofield is an exciting and soulful player, and this ability to be true to himself as a serious jazz artist, while also appealing to rock, R&B, and blues fans is what makes him so special. After watching him (@ Moogis.com) blow the roof off the Beacon when he sat in with the Allman Brothers Band on March 18, 2011, I thought it would be fascinating to talk to this jazz icon about coming of age in the ’60s & ’70s and get his take on the icons of blues rock. So this interview was conducted just a few days after that event.

Regular readers of this blog know that I publish my interviews on All About Jazz, but this year a major retrospective interview with John Scofield was already planned for the later part of 2011 to coincide with the release of his upcoming album A Moments Peace (Emarcy, 2011.) Nevertheless, he graciously agreed to this interview on blues rock guitar for Jazzamatazz, and I resisted the urge to ask him about jazz and his work with Miles and the other jazz greats – we can all look forward to that later this year on All About Jazz. Meanwhile, if you see any names you don’t recognize, or any of your favorites, be sure to check the hyper-links – there are even links to posters of concerts John saw as a high school student.

Jazzamatazz: First, as a blues fan I want to tell you how much I love your album Piety Street (2009, Universal Music). It’s one of those recordings where everything just seems to have fit together perfectly, from the material and musicians down to the great cover art. And the fact that you decided to do a gospel album in New Orleans and actually ended up in a studio on Piety Street, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

John Scofield: Yeah, it was one of those things, almost like being helped from above. It was also so much fun doing that record. Of course I knew the studio was on Piety Street, but it really didn’t register until I got down there.

Jazzamatazz: Jon Cleary was a great choice, it’s uncanny that a guy from England sings and plays piano like someone who grew up in the 9th Ward, and if that weren’t enough, he’s a fine guitarist.

John Scofield: Jon Cleary is just a major talent, and we did a year of touring after the album came out. It was wonderful working with him and he’s just become a great friend. He’s actually been into it for a long time, his story is rather interesting. His father and uncle were way into the music of New Orleans when he was a kid. So he grew up with New Orleans music playing around the house all the time, and his uncle was a musician. His sister was also really into it and had already moved down there, so when he was about age eighteen he was already playing and singing it, and at this point he’s lived down there for a long time.

Jazzamatazz: You’ve also had John Boutté who famously sings the theme song for HBO’s mini-series Treme. Have you had a chance to watch it, and are there any plans for you to appear in an episode?

John Scofield: Yes, that’s so great. We actually recorded Peity Street before that, and I was so happy to see that they used his music for the series. I actually watched one of the episodes with Jon Cleary in it, it’s very good. They haven’t asked me, but I’ll be there if they want me.

Jazzamatazz: You seem to have retained a rock energy when you need it, but other than a bit of B.B. King I can’t spot a particular influence from a blues or rock player. Were there any rock or blues player you listened to in your early years who had a lasting influence on you?

John Scofield: So first, there is influence, and then there are also people whom you like and respect. I liked and respected all of the blues players, and they all kind of played a bit like B.B. King, Otis Rush, Albert King and Freddie King. And I loved those guys, and Hendrix and Clapton, and I was a teenager when that first came out.

I started playing guitar at the end of 1963 just before the Beatles came over. [Laughing] I think I had my guitar out holding it when I was watching the Beatles on television on the Ed Sullivan Show. Continue reading

25 Essential Albums: 1960 – 1974, a guide for music fans under 30

13 Oct

GOING OLD SCHOOL

This photo from August 1969 shows people on the way to Woodstock.  A month earlier they watched people walk on the Moon, Continue reading

My Interview with Susan Tedeschi

7 Jun

What a treat it was to interview Susan Tedeschi, the future looks bright for the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band.  Read the interview on All About Jazz.

Mike Bloomfield – Supernova

11 Sep

early mike

In cosmic terms a supernova is basically the explosion of a star.  They are extremely luminous, with a burst of light that can briefly outshine an entire galaxy.  In musical terms that was Mike Bloomfield. Continue reading