Review: Gov't Mule/John Scofield, Sco-Mule

Guitarist John Scofield did two shows in Atlanta with the Allman Brothers offshoot Gov't Mule in 1999, the resultant jams on Hottentot, Tom Thumb and others now issued on CD


CD1: Hottentot; Tom Thumb; Doing It To Death; Birth Of The Mule; Sco- Mule; Kind Of Bird (77.73)
CD2: Pass The Peas; Devil Likes It Slow; Hottentot; Kind Of Bird; Afro Blue (76.22)

John Scofield, Warren Haynes (elg); Allen Woody (elb); Matt Abts (d). Guest: Dr. Dan Matrazzo (kyb). Atlanta, 1999.
Mascot/Provogue 7449

Gov’t Mule is a southern states group that I’ve never seen mentioned on the jazz scene this side of the Atlantic. It was formed in 1994 by sometime Allman Brothers members, the guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody. That pedigree might tell you that its main focus is country- inflected rock and blues, but around 1990 Haynes approached jazz guitarist John Scofield at the Sweet Basil club in New York and suggested they should play together. They stayed in touch and in 1999 Scofield flew to Atlanta to play two shows with the band, which was just branching into purely instrumental music (they had recorded their own jazz-influenced instrumentals such as Trane and Birth Of The Mule). The music on these two discs is the result, now issued for the first time.

Scofield is at home in this funky environment. As he says, “Although I’m known as a jazz player, I started out playing blues”. The rest of the band are indeed in the blues, guitarist Haynes’s solos occasionally venturing outside the pentatonic arena and bassist Woody struggling a bit when it comes to swing, as on Birth Of The Mule, which reminds a lot of Van Morrison’s ersatz jazz on Moondance. Matrazzo has better jazz technique, as so often with keyboard players. These are long jams, up to 23 minutes for Afro Blue and rhythmically rather homogeneous (almost all mid-tempo funk often on one or two chords and rather overwrought) but spirited. Scofield does the modal jazz business often and well and endorses the whole lot: “The shows we did were excellent musically and I think they stand the test of time”. Scofield completists will want it.

Mark Gilbert

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