If you’re a jazz fan in Charleston, you already have plenty to be thankful for. But this week especially, there’s a few more things to toss on the list.
On Tuesday, the Pour House is hosting a rare local performance by guitar virtuoso John Scofield who’s playing with the New Orleans pianist Jon Cleary on their first duet tour together along the East Coast.
Scofield has dedicated his life to jazz music, learning his instrument at age 11 in suburban Connecticut.
After studying music at Berklee College of Music, he hopped around a few different bands led by prominent musicians such as Charles Mingus and Gary Burton. The ultimate resume-builder came in the mid-’80s, when he toured and recorded with Miles Davis.
Since then, Scofield has developed a reputation for versatility, collaborating with jazz legends including Bill Frisell and Herbie Hancock, experimental jazz-rockers such as Medeski, Martin and Wood, and even jam band greats such as Phil Lesh and Warren Haynes.
In the meantime, he’s led countless bands and recorded more than 30 albums, one of them being the off-the-beaten-path gospel album called “Piety Street,” released in 2009. That’s where Cleary first came into the picture.
The album was recorded — you guessed it — on Piety Street in New Orleans. Scofield pieced together a band comprising mostly of New Orleans musicians, including funk guitarist George Porter Jr., who was a founder of The Meters; John Boutte, a singer known for his Big Easy roots; and two members of Bonnie Raitt’s band, drummer Ricky Fataar and Cleary, the masterful organist and keys player.
Cleary was born in England and raised in New Orleans, where he gained respect with his piano skills and a gritty yet sweet voice, not unlike another Crescent City legend, Dr. John.
Most of his work takes a deep-dive into the city’s R&B traditions, which is why Scofield chose him for the Piety Street project.
“I’ve been a Cleary fan for a long time. I met him in New York in about 1990,” Scofield explained. “I’ve always loved New Orleans R&B myself ... and I wanted to make a record with New Orleans musicians and I already knew Jon, so he was on that, and he became one of the focal points of the record as one of the lead vocalists and the keyboard player.”
The band went on a nationwide tour after the album came out, but the two didn’t have a chance to play as a duo until last year when Soulive, a funk/jazz trio, invited them to perform at Bowlive, the band’s collaborative series at Brooklyn Bowl.
“And then we thought, ‘wow, this is great’ and we decided to work up this act,” Scofield said. “We had always played together in a full band with a rhythm section. But what really got me going was playing with Cleary because he has this New Orleans piano style that’s very percussive and it’s like a whole band. It’s very orchestral. ... So, I can just play my guitar stuff along with that. It’s really great, it’s like a conversation with two guys.”
They went on tour in Europe this year and recently embarked on an East Coast run. Scofield said they’ve mostly been playing old R&B songs from the ’50s and jazz standards that they’ve “New Orlean-ized,” as he put it.
“It’s some real funk, you know. And I play more bluesy because he’s super soulful and it brings that out of me,” Scofield said. “My background is more straight-ahead modern jazz ... so it’s a little bit of a special combination because we both come from different aspects of the same tree.”
Scofield said he’d like to record a duet album with Cleary at some point to capture that energy, but they’re not putting anything on the books just yet.
Their show at the Pour House is at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, which begins with an opening set by local jazz players Lee Barbour and Gerald Gregory. Tickets are $25 in advance and $28 at the door. For more information, visit www.charlestonpourhouse.com/schedule.
The Jazz Artists of Charleston announced the details of the second annual Charleston Jazz Festival this week.
The weekend-long event runs Jan. 22-24 and will offer a variety of performances by locals and a few jazz greats at the Gaillard Center, the Sottile Theatre, Woolfe Street Playhouse, and Barsa Tapas & Lounge.
One highlight of the festival is the headlining performance by Arturo Sandoval, a 10-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter from Cuba, at the Gaillard Center.
Diane Schuur, an American jazz singer and pianist with two Grammy Awards under her belt, will perform an opening set with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra.
Other participants include Frank Duvall Quartet, Kevin Patton Quartet, Gino Castillo Quartet, as well as the first-ever performance of the brand-new Charleston All-Star Youth Jazz Orchestra led by CJO trumpeter and longtime music educator Stephen Berry.
“One of the joys of producing the Charleston Jazz Festival is that we get to bring in big-name talent like Arturo Sandoval and Diane Schuur while also creating a space for our local jazz musicians to shine,” said Mary Beth Natarajan, executive director of the Jazz Artists of Charleston. “Our goal is to keep growing this festival so Charleston becomes as well known for jazz as it is for its great food and storied history.”
Tickets and a full schedule of events are available at www.chasjazzfestival.com.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.