John Scofield (born December 26, 1951, Dayton, Ohio, United States), often referred to as "Sco", is an American jazz-rock guitarist and composer, who has played and collaborated with Miles Davis, Dave Liebman, Joe Henderson, Charles Mingus, Joey DeFrancesco, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Pat Martino, Mavis Staples, Phil Lesh, Billy Cobham, Medeski Martin & Wood, George Duke, Jaco Pastorius, John Mayer, and many other well-known artists. At ease in the bebop idiom, Scofield is also well versed in jazz fusion, funk, blues, soul, rock and other forms of modern American music.
Early in his life, Scofield's family left Ohio and relocated to the small, then mostly rural location of Wilton, Connecticut; it was here that he discovered his interest in music.
Educated at the Berklee College of Music, Scofield eventually left school to record with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan. He joined the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band soon after and spent two years playing, recording and touring with them. Scofield recorded with Charles Mingus in 1976, and replaced Pat Metheny in Gary Burton's quartet. In autumn 1976 he signed a contract with Enja Records, and he released his first album, John Scofield, in 1977. Around this time, he toured and recorded with Pianist Hal Galper, first on his own solo album Rough House in 1978, and Galper's album Ivory Forest (1980), where he is heard playing a solo rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Mood". In 1979 he formed a trio with his mentor Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum which, with drummer Bill Stewart replacing Nussbaum, has become the signature group of Scofield's career. In 1982, he joined Miles Davis, with whom he remained for three and a half years. He contributed tunes and guitar work to three Davis recordings, Star People, You're Under Arrest and Decoy.
While still with Davis, he released the first of his Gramavision recordings Electric Outlet (1984). Still Warm (1985) followed after he left Davis's group. At the end of the Davis tenure, he started what is now referred to as his Blue Matter Band - with Dennis Chambers on drums, Gary Grainger on bass and at times either Mitchel Forman, Robert Aries or Jim Beard on keyboards - releasing Blue Matter, Loud Jazz and Pick Hits Live. The mid-80's were also the time, when Marc Johnson assembled his first own ensemble Bass Desires with Peter Erskine on drums, and Bill Frisell beside Scofield as two guitarists of distinctive but complementing styles. This “most auspicious [pairing] since John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana” was only transitory and recorded just two records, the self-titled Bass Desires and Second Sight (1986 and 1987).
At the beginning of the 1990s, Scofield formed his quartet that included Joe Lovano with whom he recorded several important albums for Blue Note Records. Time on My Hands (1990), with Lovano, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette, showcased Scofield's guitar and Mingus-influenced writing. Bill Stewart subsequently became the group's drummer, and played on Meant to Be (1991) and What We Do (1993). In 1992, Scofield released Grace Under Pressure, featuring fellow guitarist Bill Frisell, with Charlie Haden on bass and Joey Baron on drums. Stewart rejoined with Scofield and bassist Steve Swallow for the 1994 collaboration with Pat Metheny, I Can See Your House from Here.
Towards the end of his tenure with Blue Note, Scofield returned to a more funk and soul jazz-oriented sound, a direction which has dominated much of his subsequent output. In 1994 and 1995, Scofield formed a core group that included organist/pianist Larry Goldings, bassist Dennis Irwin, and alternately drummers, Bill Stewart and Idris Muhammad. The group toured extensively, and the albums Hand Jive and Groove Elation feature this funk/groove/soul-jazz dimension in Scofield's music, bringing in tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris, percussionist Don Alias, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and others. He recorded the acclaimed 1997 album A Go Go with the avant garde jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. Also during this period, his relationship began with British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage. First as a soloist on Turnage's Blood on the Floor: Elegy for Andy, the two paired up to create Scorched, Turnage's orchestrations of Scofield compositions largely form the Blue Matter period. Scorched, a recording available on Deutsche Grammophon, debuted in Frankfurt, Germany.
He released Überjam in 2002 and Up All Night in 2004, two albums on which he experiments with drum n bass and other modern rhythms. John Scofield has also worked and recorded in Europe with nu-fusionist Bugge Wesseltoft New Conception of Jazz in 2001/2 and 2006. Late 2004 saw the release of EnRoute: John Scofield Trio LIVE, which features the jazz trio of John Scofield, the venerable Steve Swallow on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. It was recorded live at The Blue Note in NYC in December 2003. The next year, he released That's What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles - Scofield with an all-star guest studded collection of Ray Charles material. This led to a series of performances with Mavis Staples, Gary Versace on organ, John Benitez on bass, and Steve Hass on drums.
After sitting in for two engagements in December (3rd & 4th) of 2005 with Phil Lesh and Friends, Scofield has since played numerous shows with the band.
On September 26, 2006 he released Out Louder, his second collaborative effort album with avant garde jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. The group, known collectively as MSMW toured extensively worldwide in 2006 and 2007, with sporadic engagements planned in the future. Scofield also performs as a duo with John Medeski - aptly named The Johns and another groove trio with Scofield, Medeski and drummer Adam Deitch.
September 18, 2007 saw This Meets That released on EmArcy Records - Universal Music's jazz label, a record featuring his trio with Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart. This time John added a horn section to expand the sound of his trio.
Never one to follow an expected path, in recent years Scofield launched a personal search for musical inspiration beyond the standard 12 bar blues and found it in "old time gospel music - the closest relative to and inspiration for the R&B.” His 2009 release Piety Street with bass legend George Porter, Jr. and singer/keyboardist Jon Cleary. The collaboration heard on the 2010 release 54 had its origins back in the 90's when Vince Mendoza asked John Scofield to play on his first album. John has since been featured on two of Vince’s records and his guitar sound and improvisational skills work well within Vince’s concept. When Mendoza assumed directorship of The Metropole Orchestra, he and Scofield decided to collaborate again with a primary focus on Mendoza’s arrangements of Scofield compositions as performed with The Metropole Orchestra.
In a return to Scofieldesque "straight ahead" jazz, he went to the studio in January 2011 with pianist/organist Larry Goldings, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, laying the tracks for a ballads album titled A Moment's Peace scheduled for a May 2011 release on EmArcy Records.
In April 2010, Scofield was named an Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
Scofield is currently serving as an adjunct faculty member in the Jazz Department at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education.
He married Susan Scofield in 1978. They are the parents of music producer Jean Scofield (b. 1981) and Evan Scofield (1987-2013).
Scofield endorses Ibanez guitars. His signature guitar, the JSM100, is based on his longtime stage and recording guitar, a 1981 Ibanez AS200 which he believes to be one of the best semi-acoustics ever built. He gets his tone by running a Pro Co RAT through either a Vox AC30 or Mesa Boogie amplifier. Some of his effects include an Ibanez CS9 Analog Chorus, a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeler, and a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. Some of his additional effects include a DigiTech XP100 Whammy/Wah, a Boss EQ Pedal, a Boss Loop Station, and a Boomerang phrase sampler pedal. John Scofield uses Dunlop Delrin 2 mm picks.