Scofield brings Ray Charles tribute to town
If one could overlook the fact of his death, you could say these past 15 months were a petty decent time for late soul legend Ray Charles.Since he died in June 2004, Charles has hit the top of the charts, with Genius Loves Company, a series of duets with the likes of Norah Jones, James Taylor and Van Morrison. The posthumous album, released two months after his death, is the best-selling album of his career and earned eight Grammy Awards. Jamie Foxx re-created Charles with uncanny accuracy in last years biopic Ray, for which Foxx earned a best actor Academy Award.Most recently, jazz guitarist John Scofield honored Charles in the uncommonly satisfying tribute CD Thats What I Say. Released in June on the Verve label, the album has Scofield and a cast that includes vocalists Dr. John, Aaron Neville and Mavis Staples, guitarists Warren Haynes and John Mayer, and longtime Charles sideman David Fathead Newman on saxophone. The ensemble reworked Charles material with a sense of daring and creativity.Scofield brings his Ray Charles tribute show to the Belly Up tonight at 10. His band includes bassist John Benitez, keyboardist Gary Versace, drummer Steve Hass and Meyer Statham on trombone and vocals.Scofield is not ordinarily a fan of the tribute album, which has become ever more commonplace.In jazz and I know because Ive made a million records people say, What are you going to do, not another album of your own material, he said in an interview with The Aspen Times in June. They do it just to do it, and I didnt want to do it like that.But Scofield thought he had just cause for paying tribute to Charles, who had been an inspiration to him in his younger days. And as Thats What I Say proves from beginning to end, Scofield found much artistic reason to follow through with the project.Charles classics are given all sorts of twists on the album. The instrumental Sticks and Stones gets a groove similar to A Go Go, the Scofield album featuring jam-jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. Whatd I Say is a perfect jazz/R & B hybrid; Lets Go Get Stones gets an appropriate late-night feel. The CD ends with Scofields solo take, with a Spanish tinge, on Georgia On My Mind.Scofield said the biggest adjustment he made in honoring Charles was to give his guitar tone an edgier, bluesier feel.He has another good reason for paying tribute to Charles: It was as good a reason as any to dip a toe into the R & B realm. After coming on New Yorks progressive jazz scene in the 70s, Scofield played for several years in Miles Davis pop-leaning band of the 80s.His own series of albums placed him among jazzs most skilled guitarists, and one with an adventurous edge. That tendency for experimentation came to full flower on A Go Go, the 1998 groove album that made Scofield a favorite of the jam-band fans. Scofield has since split his time between traditional-leaning albums, such as the live En Route, with drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Steve Swallow the lineup with which he appeared in June at the Belly Up and more electric CDs like Bump and Up All Night.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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