Gov’t Mule + John Scofield, “Tom Thumb” from Sco-Mule (2015): Something Else! sneak peek

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Culled from two memorable shows down in Georgia at the end of the 90s, recordings of the meeting between the blues-rock Allman Brothers spinoff band Gov’t Mule and elite jazz guitar giant John Scofield will finally see the light of day on January 26, 2015 (Provogue/Mascot Label Group). Sco-Mule was an early indication of the different paths Gov’t Mule were capable of taking and eventually led them to become much more than that Allmans ‘spinoff’ band.

[Click here for the full review of Sco-Mule, now on sale.]

At the time of these September ’99 tapings Gov’t Mule was still in its original trio form with Warren Haynes on guitar/vocals, Allen Woody on bass and Matt Abts on drums, but for these shows, Scofield along with keyboard player Dr. Dan Matrazzo were invited to sit in, making a formidable trio into an insane quintet. Sco-Mule nudges the Mule toward Scofield’s sophisticated jazz/funk/rock vision, and it’s clear from all of these instrumentals that the band had the chops to take a big leap in that direction. Unfortunately, Allen’s tragic death the following year temporarily shelved any plans to go deeper than the occasional instrumentals they’ve recorded to this point (although in the end, the band became as good as they’ve ever been).

Gov’t Mule instantly found a lot of common ground with Sco, though, including within the unlikely selection of “Tom Thumb.” A funky, straight-up jazz number from Wayne Shorter that Shorter recorded in 1967, its unique interplay and wide-open solo opportunities made it a mint choice to show what this expanded group can do together. Scofield probably brought this one to the Mule; he’d already recorded a cover in the studio that turned up on his 1996 compilation The Best of John Scofield: The Best of the Blue Note years.

Haynes undertakes the ‘James Spaulding’ alto sax role on his guitar, stating one facet of the melody, as Scofield takes care of the complementing part and they wrap up the theme in unison…just as it was originally conceived but with horns. Following Matrazzo’s vigorous Rhodes solo, Scofield and then Haynes take turns doing their distinctive things on guitar. The two-chord coda is extended to make room for a blues-drenched exchange of licks between the two guitar greats.

The bass line is very important on this song, too, and Woody plays it on a standup bass, pulling this undertaking closer to its acoustic roots and he generates an undertow of swing beneath the loping funk rhythm.

This is how a rock band on the level of Gov’t Mule jams on jazz.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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