Gov’t Mule and John Scofield pair for Belly Up Aspen show
If You Go …
What: Gov’t Mule with John Scofield
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Monday, Feb. 23, 9 p.m.
More info: http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Southern rock stalwarts and improvisational wizards Gov’t Mule are celebrating 20 years as a band in 2015 by going on the road with jazz-rock great John Scofield, in a tour that comes to Belly Up on Monday.
Singer-guitarist Warren Haynes is surprised as anyone that the band – which started as a side project while he and late bass player Allen Woody were on break from the Allman Brothers – has lasted two decades.
“We were just looking for something fun to do,” Haynes said from his home outside New York City, before heading out on tour. “We had no expectations beyond the first record or even the first year for that matter, much less a fifth year, tenth year, twentieth year.”
Haynes and Scofield first met sometime in the late 1980s or early ‘90s, according to Haynes, at the Sweet Basil in Greenwich Village. Scofield had played a show there, and Haynes went to see it but arrived up too late. Instead, he caught up with Scofield over a post-show drink.
“I introduced myself, we had a pleasant conversation and I just planted the seed of, ‘Hey, we should do something together sometime,’” he recalled. “We stayed in touch and a few years later, when Gov’t Mule was formed, we invited him for these shows.”
“These shows” refers to the recordings of a pair of concerts, from September 1999 in Georgia, which were recently released on the long-awaited “Sco-Mule” album, showcasing two hours of their first time performing together. The mostly instrumental record includes some Mule originals and jammy takes on Scofield compositions, along with the Allman Brothers’ Charlie Parker tribute “Kind of Bird” and choice covers like James Brown’s “Pass the Peas” and Wayne Shorter’s “Tom Thumb.”
“We’ve played together dozens of times since then,” Haynes said. “But this is the very beginning.”
On paper, their styles – Haynes and Gov’t Mule’s rock-based approach versus Scofield’s jazz guitar – wouldn’t appear to be made for each other. Yet it worked.
“The chemistry was instant,” said Haynes. “I think what makes a good tandem between two guitar players is when there’s just enough overlap, stylistically speaking, but also quite a bit of contrast. And with John and I, both those things exist.”
Their mutual interest in one another’s creative milieu is most evident on the Sco-Mule tour bus playlist, where Haynes said he tends to spin a lot of Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins and Scofield collaborator Miles Davis, while Scofield picks out tracks by rock and blues forebears like B.B. King and Muddy Waters.
True to the Gov’t Mule tradition, the set list changes every night of the tour with Scofield. They’ll play two sets here on Monday, with Scofield joining in on both sets, for about half of the songs.
“Sco-Mule” is one of four new archival releases from Gov’t Mule to celebrate its 20th anniversary, totaling about seven hours of music. The other releases are “Stoned Side of the Mule: Volume 1,” with seven Rolling Stones covers from a Halloween 2009 show, “Dark Side of the Mule,” featuring a Pink Floyd-centric show from Halloween 2008 and “Dub Side of the Mule,” which includes reggae cuts with Toots Hibbert, recorded live on New Year’s Eve 2006.
“If you look at all four releases as a complete picture, there aren’t a lot of songs that are repeated,” said Haynes. “So if hardcore fans want all of it, that’s a whole lot of music.”
Haynes has a lot of hardcore fans in Colorado and has played Aspen frequently over the years, with Gov’t Mule, the Allmans, with Warren Haynes Band and solo acoustic. Monday’s show sold out seemingly as soon as tickets went on sale.
“For some reason the Colorado audiences love to be a part of spontaneous music and music that’s driven by improvisation, that’s a little more experimental and adventurous,” he said of his feverish local following. “And that’s a good thing for us, because that’s what we love. … Fans in that part of the country take music seriously and don’t want to be force-fed the same commercial music that everyone else is listening to.”
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