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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

John Scofield’s Organic Trio ranges far and wide in Folly Theater performance

05/11/2014 1:24 AM

05/11/2014 6:43 PM

John Scofield’s Organic Trio was most potent during the most extreme moments of its concert Saturday at the Folly Theater. About 400 people attended the final performance of the 2013-14 season of the Folly Jazz Series.

Pleasing variations of mainstream jazz gave way to thunderous rock and serpentine reggae during an unfettered rendition of the Police’s “Hole in My Life” in the second set. Fans who most appreciate Scofield’s occasional forays on the jam-band circuit shimmied ecstatically in their seats.

That outburst was balanced with an aberrant incursion into free jazz at the conclusion of “Flower Power.” The Scofield composition dissolved into hushed but unmistakably anarchic sounds that resembled a muffled interpretation of the sound of breaking glass.

After stints with bandleaders including drummer Billy Cobham and Kansas City’s Jay McShann, Scofield, 62, became an integral member of Miles Davis’ band in the early 1980s. He has since proven his mettle in a wide variety of formats.

Keyboardist Larry Goldings and drummer Greg Hutchinson were Scofield’s artistic foils on Saturday. Hutchinson’s muscular but thoughtful drumming maintained forward momentum. Goldings’ work on the Hammond B3 organ was a revelation.

In addition to eliciting uncommon textures from the cumbersome instrument, Goldings managed to maintain a stoic bass line with his left hand while unleashing cosmic funk and soulful boogaloo with his right hand.

The organist repeatedly challenged Scofield. After the guitarist took the first solo of each selection, Goldings would follow with an improvisation that often served as a superior reflection of the bandleader’s statement.

After Scofield opened “Tennessee Waltz” with a wistful solo, Goldings responded with an even more eloquent effort based in the gospel tradition. Goldings’ solo during a reading of Joe Henderson’s “If” contained unexpected rhythmic patterns and advanced harmonic structures that slyly revised the ideas Scofield had presented moments before.

Scofield is an enthusiastic bandleader who clearly took delight in the exceptional playing of his colleagues. During the encore, however, he seemed determined to remind Goldings and the audience of his pre-eminence.

Complemented by an arsenal of special effects, Scofield’s riffing in the concert’s final moments provided a spectacular conclusion to an enthralling performance.

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