John Scofield and Jon Cleary have both been busy in 2015, together and on their own. Scofield just returned from a month of touring all of Europe, sitting in with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon earlier this year, and kicking off 2015 with a collaboration with Asheville native Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, dubbed Sco Mule. He also released a new album, called Past Present.
Cleary has been touring heavily in the US and Europe with his backing band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, showing off the funky soulful content from his latest album GoGo Juice. Cleary has been a staple at the last few Jazz and Heritage Festival, as well as being a returning featured artist at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival for the past couple of years. Cleary is also featured on Scofield’s album Piety Street which was released in 2009.
Scofield and Cleary kicked off their latest tour together in the theatre at New Mountain Asheville last night, treating guests to an intimate set of New Orleans R&B classics. The duo transformed an array of old tunes from greats like Fats Domino and Johnny Guitar Watson into a beautiful blend of New Orleans soul and modern jazz improvisation.
There were a number of high points throughout the night, one of them being a funky rendition of the eight bar blues classic “Junker’s Blues,” a tune that inspired many New Orleans blues classics like Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “The Fat Man” by Fats Domino. Cleary referenced the way Professor Longhair played the riffs when he borrowed from it to write the song “Tipitina,” and treated us all to a driving, funky rendition of the classic tune.
Scofield beautifully blended his melodic and spacey guitar riffs over Cleary’s rolling piano throughout the night, and eventually taking off onto some lengthy tangential, psychedelic, and bluesy solos. Scofield particularly leaned into the Johnny “Guitar” Watson song “Cuttin’ In,” which stoked the crowd for a flawless transition into the Little Willie John song, “Fever.” Cleary provided an impressive vocal performance through both songs that were reminiscent of the legendary Dr. John performance that New Mountain Amphitheater hosted this summer.
The pair also covered the Fats Domino hit “I’m Ready,” showing they were willing and able to Rock & Roll all night! Scofield then recollected an old song from his childhood that he explained was once “the #1 song in the world,” a song called “Stardust” which was composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1927. Scofield lead into it with a beautifully delicate intro to a flowing and relaxing number to bring us all down nice and easy.
John Scofield and Jon Cleary continue their tour tonight in Durham, NC, and after a few other shows throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast they will make their way back down south to Atlanta on 12/9 and Charlotte on 12/11.