A quick glance through Scofield’s discography reveals he has been one of the most active musicians in jazz over the last thirty years, and with good reason, and the range and scope of his talents.
From 1982–1985, John Scofield toured and recorded with Miles Davis. His Davis stint placed him firmly in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a player and composer. He contributed tunes and guitar work to three Davis recordings, Star People, You’re Under Arrest and Decoy. While still with Miles Davis, he released the first of his Gramavision recordings Electric Outlet (1984). Still Warm (1985) followed after he left Davis’s group.
Davis’ live performances were visual events almost as much as they were musical ones and, at the Tuinpaviljoen, wearing an exuberant sci-fi meets Michael Jackson assemblage, Davis is a charismatic presence. He takes no lengthy solos, instead spending much of the time directing (and at times coercing) his band. Playing or directing, he commands the stage. In 1985, this music was not jazz as most people knew it, but it was, and remains, compelling stuff.
Scofield left Berklee to play with Woody Herman and Chet Baker. His first appearance on record is with Herman and Baker from Carnegie Hall on the album Reunion. Following his appearances with Baker, he joined the band led by keyboardist George Duke and drummer Billy Cobham. He played with this band for about two years. With Duke and Cobham, Scofield played for the first time in his career for a predominant rock audience in concert halls and festivals all over the world.
In 1977, Scofield appeared on bassist Charles Mingus’ last album, 3 or 4 Shades of Blue. He later recorded with Jay McShann on 1977’s Last of the Blue Devils and with bassist Ron Carter. In 1978, Scofield appeared on Larry Coryell’s album Tributaries, which was an album with Joe Beck on guitar. The album featured the song Zimbabwe. He also branched out as a leader in 1978 and formed his first band with bassist and saxophonist George Mraz, and released his first album entitled John Scofield Live. In 1980, Scofield formed a trio with his mentor, Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum. This group recorded several well-received albums.
During the 1980s, Scofield became one of the busier guitar players in jazz. He appeared on albums with saxophonist Dave Liebman, drummer Bob Moses, drummer Bill Goodwin, and bassist Peter Warren all before the year 1982.