John Scofield and Joe Lovano at PDX Jazz Festival Finale, Revolution Hall

Written by Bruce Rash on February 28, 2016

John Scofield and Joe Lovano at PDX Jazz Festival, Revolution Hall

Asked to introduce the band, the legendary bassist David Friesen put it succinctly…”What can you say about these guys? The music says it all…” And nearly two hours later, it had all been said…


When you have a jazz guitar great and a tenor sax great fronting a group…they hang onto something…their decades of experience and love for each others playing of course, but they also hang on the support cast; the drummer and bassist, and tonight was proof of that.

Veteran drummer Bill Stewart showed me something I’ve never heard before…we all know that the ‘beat’ in jazz comes from the cymbals, not the bass drum and snare, but Stewart took that standard issue animal and morphed it into an entirely different creature. Never have I heard the cymbals glide, sing and crash, push and pull the music along like tonight. And just to let us all know his mastery doesn’t begin or end there, his solos on the skins were magnificent, using every articulation imaginable.

Bassist Dennis Irwin is a consummate upright bass player. At first I thought the bass was too far back in the mix but soon found that was the perfect spot…like Stewart, he knew exactly when to be “on” with the soloist and drums, when to lean in and when to lay back. His solo’s were too short for my liking, but that said, he made every note count!

And then there’s John and Joe. Like David Friesen said in his intro…”The music says it all…” But I’ll try and extend Davids thought…When I said “They hang on something,” what I meant by that is they listenall night long, you could hear and see it…listening to the bass, the drums and each other…my favorite moments were when they did the beloved jazz tradition of ‘trading fours’…sometimes they’d start out with eights, then down to four bars, then two bars, and the true magic happened when they were improvising their lines together…you could see them and hear them leaning into each other…listening, really listening, following and leading, ebbing and flowing, not knowing which note to play next but always hitting the sweet spot…

John, Joe, Bill and Dennis gave the lucky folks that made it to the Finale of the PDX Jazz Festival an amazing evening of the purest improvisational ecstasy.

And lets not forget that FINALLY, John Scofield was awarded a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album with the recent release “Past Present”. Congrats John…and congrats to this wonderful band and everyone fortunate enough to be at Revolution Hall tonight!





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