Hedvig Mollestad about John Scofield:

"He has added a kind of Hendrix element to jazz music"

Guitarist Hedvig Mollestad recalls the time when, as a 14-year-old, she had a new guitar hero: John Scofield. One of jazz's most influential guitarists.

Ahead of the festival in 2017, we asked guitarist Hedvig Mollestad to write a text for Kongsberg Jazzfestival's magazine. The text deals with her relationship with jazz guitar legend John Scofield. This year, Scofield is coming to Kongsberg again, this time with the equally legendary bassist Dave Holland. Mollestad's reflections on Scofield's style and influence vibrate as well now as then.

GUITAR HERO ABOUT GUITAR HERO: Hedvig Mollestad writes about her relationship with John Scofield. Here she is in action at Energimølla with her Weejuns project in 2022. Photo: Kongsberg Jazzfestival

Being dragged backwards into John Scofield's birdcage

Text: Hedvig Mollestad

In 1996 it was 14 years since I was born. And 14 years ago John Scofield started touring with Miles Davis. It was 22 years since he made his recording debut with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker (he was standing in for his teacher Mick Goodrick) and only 19 years since he recorded with Charles Mingus and replaced Pat Metheny in the Gary Burton Quartet. It had been three years since he laid down in the left channel and recorded "I Can See Your House From Here," while Pat Metheny handled the synth guitar in the right channel, at least occasionally. This was a master meeting record that it would be another 14 years before I heard it for the first time.

The year was 1996. John Scofield had just released "Quiet", the album in which he plays acoustic guitar with a large ensemble: Several walhorns, flügelhorn, flute and bass clarinet. And Wayne Shorter.

Young jazz purist

Word had started to circulate in my jazz-loving family that I played the guitar – and even some jazz. So my cousin brought me "Quiet". At the time, I was allergic to all music that had lightning in the logo (AC/DC), struggled with weird fonts (Metallica), and generally anything that contained skulls (Iron Maiden). I rolled my eyes as a jazz purist at all that, even though Pearl Jam was certainly in it. And Nirvana. There must have been something with the dress code.

Anyway: it was wise to sell me the acoustic John Scofield, even if it meant that I got to know him through one of his less typical sides, which was quite far removed from what had actually made him a career. For him, as for everyone else who was blessed with an invitation to the trumpeter's band, the collaboration with Miles Davis was what really launched him to a world of listeners, literally. It was the Miles job that laid the foundation for him to have attentive ears directed at him and the musical choices he was to make further along his path, and which led to him establishing himself as one of jazz's most influential guitarists.

Explosive and elastic

John Scofield and his tireless guitar work over almost half a century may not be experimental in nature, but it is definitely genre-evolving. Both his guitar playing and not least his compositions have a broad appeal within the established and expanding jazz rock segment. 

Purely as a guitarist, he is a "nine life" project for most of us. In addition, it can be said that Scofield, together with guitarists such as John McLaughlin, has added a kind of Hendrix element to jazz music, the mixture of the explosive and the elastic, and thus he has helped to lay the foundations for all of us who today experiment and tails and pulls in the genres to a large extent and sometimes completely into the unrecognizable.

In 2017, it is 40 years since John Scofield's first solo record came out. The likeable and likeable guitarist has perhaps become the kind of old man with gray hair who is always self-described on jazz festival posters. The title of his latest album, "Country For Old Men", where he transforms country songs into a starting point for jazz improvisation, is well suited. 

His wife and long-time collaborator Susan came up with the title - originally a funny pun on the book (or film) "No Country For Old Men". But it was WB Yeats who came first with the opening stanza in the poem "Sailing to Byzantium": "That is no country for old men".

Gray hair, colorful game

Still, there's not much old man with gray hair about his game. Scofield is constantly embarking on new projects. Indeed, his technique is still what it once was. He has a strong musical presence when he plays, he manages to continuously renew himself and excite his audience.

The wonderful thing is that it doesn't really matter which way you meet John Scofield. Whether it is extended through "Decoy", "A Go Go", or "Carnegie Hall Concert" - or backwards through "Quiet". It doesn't really matter if it's 1977 or 1996. It's rock solid either way. In 2017, John Scofield states that the old ones are still the best.

This is a photo of John Scofield and Dave Holland
Kongsberg Musikkteater
Thursday 4 July / Time: 21:00

John Scofield & Dave Holland Duo

Since last time:

John Scofield: Since the text was written in 2017, John Scofield has released a handful of albums, the last three on the venerable ECM: "Swallow Tales" (2020) in trio with Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart. Then the solo album "John Scofield" (2022) which opens the album with a Keith Jarrett composition and ends with Hank Williams' country standard "You Win Again". Last year saw the trio album "Uncle John's Band" (with Vicente Archer and Bill Stewart), where the Grateful Dead cover that gave the album its title ends the album. 

Hedvig Mollestad: She has released albums in a row on the record company Rune Grammofon. In total, she has released seven albums with the Hedvig Mollestad Trio since 2011, the latest being "Ding Dong. You're Dead.” (2021). In addition, "Ekhidna" (2020), "Tempest Revisited" (2021), "Maternity Beat" (2022) together with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and most recently "Weejuns" in 2023.