John Scofield "That's What I Say" Interview
by Bob Putignano
Goldmine Magazine June 2005
BobP: Great CD John, did you come up with the title?
Sco: Usually my wife does, but this one was mine, which is rare (laughs.)
BobP: The Ray Charles concept is a departure from previous recordings.
Sco: That concept started right here at Verve Records, Ron Goldstein asked if I wanted to do this? Woo, the record company has an idea, and I didn’t like it, but it registered as I always loved Ray, and felt I could do something with his music.
BobP: And you kept your identity.
Sco: Thanks! I always liked R&B, in fact in the ‘60’s I wanted to be B.B. King! I have a lot of Ray’s records that I went back to- which flooded my mind with ideas. And remember Ray was also a jazz musician, so the project really started making sense.
BobP: There is such a great cast of musicians assembled.
Sco: Steve Jordan was the perfect drummer for this, as he understands R&B and loves blues. We worked together on assembling a guest artist list that was easy for us to agree on. You know he brought in this great young kid- John Mayer, as Jordan is working on Mayer’s new CD.
BobP: I heard, Rolling Stone just quoted Mayer saying he doesn’t care if he ever wins another Grammy- he wants to do a blues record.
Sco: Mayer loves the blues, and sang and played his ass off on “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”
BobP: It’s one of my favorite tunes.
Sco: Me too! The tune was my choice, Mayer went for it and sang a bit higher than usual, it’s a ballsy vocal! It’s pretty happening, he can really play, and could be the next SRV. Mayer’s is all musician, wants to play with everyone, he’s working with Herbie Hancock, and he wants more.
BobP: Blues savior?
Sco: Could be, what a great lyricist, he’s heavy, and it won’t hurt blues & jazz, as Mayer’s so young with a huge youthful following.
BobP: Mavis Staples?
Sco: My soul diva of choice, I felt very fortunate to have her on board. Mavis is special, I love her voice, singing, approach, and her attitude is great. She’s a pleasure to work with, a saint!
BobP: Aaron Neville?
Sco: Another one of my favorites, what a stylist! I picked “You Don’t Know Me” for him, what a performance!
BobP: You have two world class singers on the CD, perhaps two of the greatest living vocalist’s.
Sco: For me Mavis may be the greatest ever, Aaron as well.
BobP: Warren Haynes?
Sco: Funny story: back in the ‘80’s I was playing NYC, and this long haired guy asks if he can sit in, I said no man. He says I play with the Allman’s, yeah right and said- sorry. A week later I’m looking at a Allman’s CD, and go oh no, that guy was for real. But we’re friends now, he never took it personal, and actually I sat in with Govt. Mule, which may be released. Warren has influenced me, and I may even start to play bottleneck, Warren’s going to give me lessons!
BobP: Dr. John?
Sco: This guy! I’ve been a fan of forever. NOLA music always interested me, you know I played with him back in the ‘80’s and there’s a DVD with me and Mac in duo setting which is very hip.
BobP: I just saw Mac, solo in NYC.
Sco: I just found out, as I was out of town. Mac is an orchestra, who should be left to his own rhythmic sense, like a James Booker. He should do more solo stuff.
BobP: Actually last year, Joel Dorn’s label Hyena Records released a live/solo CD/DVD from the ‘80’s “All by Hisself.”
Sco: I have to get that, Mac is so special, he can really play, a national treasure!
BobP: Melvin Sparks recorded with Mac on Hank Crawford’s “Roadhouse Symphony” and first thought Mac was just a blues guy, then said wow- this guy can really play!
Sco: I know Melvin from Mount Vernon, and Melvin is so right!
Sco: Every track was thought out in advance, except “Busted” which was just a B3 trio studio jam, Jordan suggested it- it was so much fun that we kept it for the CD.
BobP: Some of the finest Fathead Newman I have heard in some time here too.
Sco: Didn’t he play great? He was so determined to hit it, what sound he has, Texas tenor man!
BobP: So many great players from there- Freddie King, Gatemouth, T-Bone, etc.
Sco: You know Mike Clark? (BobP-Yep.) Mike moved from San Fran to Houston to play with those guys (left the 10th grade), and played with Freddie and Jimmy Reed, and maybe even T-Bone, ask him when you see him.
BobP: Was everyone in the studio during this recording?
Sco: Everyone was, nobody mailed it in. The only overdub was on “What’d I Say” which would have made a great video, but having Mavis, Aaron, Mac, and Mayer together at the same time was just not going to happen.
BobP: Are you going to tour behind “That’s What I Say?”
Sco: After the European Summer schedule. Rehearsing now with a somewhat unknown vocalist from Boston, B3, bass, and drums. We will be going out hard, yeah man Ray Charles. We’re doing the Monterey Festival with Mavis. And John Mayer, Jordan, Willie Weeks and I will be doing the Tonight show, where Mayer will play guitar and sing “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” The Tonight Show beats anything I have ever done- it’s quite a thrill!
BobP: I am really happy for you, I think you have a major hit on your hands, perhaps a Grammy too.
Sco: Grammy, you think? I hope your right (laughs.) You know it was a pleasure to work with my idols. And let us not forget Larry Goldings who put so much into the project as well. And Jordan got me to focus. You know Blues and R&B is played in so many places- night after night, its like people got tired of it, but people forget how could it can be, especially when you can play it with the masters, as it takes on another life!
BobP: It sure has taken another life on Scofield’s “That’s What I Say.” Check it out for yourself.
Radio Host WFDU’s “Sounds of Blue”
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society