Young Schofield's playing on this debut is dynamite! And the guy knows how to pick'em, no rehashed SRV licks here, just a blindingly fine selection of material
- Guitarist Magazine
- Guitarist Magazine
It's difficult to think of any guitarist in the last decade who has enjoyed quite the same unanimous acclaim as Matt Schofield. In the short space of time since his 2004 debut, this unassuming tone fanatic has already been dubbed one of the top ten British Blues guitarists of all time by Guitar and Bass magazine.
Now, with HEADS, TAILS & ACES, Matt has produced his most compelling set yet. With new recruits - drummer, Alain Baudry and bassist, Jeff Walker - this album just bristles with energy and scorching solos. And it's an entirely song-based album, with nine of the eleven tracks written or co-written by Schofield.
The breadth of material on this album is impressive, spanning everything from the smouldering Malaco-like soul groove of War We Wage, to the eccentric back beat driven Betting Man and the Jazz-tinged Nothing Left. Underpinned by Jonny Henderson's constantly empathetic keyboards, Matt stamps his own style on proceedings, slamming into solos that burn with intensity.
As ever, there is a power and emotion in Schofield's playing rarely heard these days and even more rarely in combination with such a fluid and melodic approach.
Inspired by the Blues, infused with the funk rhythms of New Orleans and topped-off by virtuoso musicianship, Matt Schofield is being talked of as the finest Blues guitarist to have emerged in Europe for several generations, perhaps even in the World. His latest album "Siftin Thru Ashes" (Nugene Records) has received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Britain's Guitarist magazine describes Schofield's guitar playing as "Dynamite", picking him as the only non-American in their review of the future of Blues guitar; while America's Blues Revue calls him "The entire package – a singer with range and soul, and a guitarist who delivers with devastating tone and superb dynamics". BBC Radio 2 presenter Paul Jones picked Schofield as one of his highlights of 2005, commenting "I think it's time he became a big star."
The LA Daily News describes Schofield as "Head and shoulders above the herd" while music bible AllMusic.com marks Schofield's approach "an enjoyable demonstration of what can happen when blues-rock and blues-jazz are united". Music magazine, MOJO, gave Siftin' Thru Ashes a four star (excellent) rating, something rarely given to UK Blues artists.
In 2006, just two years after his debut CD, Schofield gained the distinction of being one of only two living British artists to be given a four star (excellent) rating in the Penguin Book of Blues Recordings.
The band line-up harks back to the classic organ trios of the fifties and sixties. Jonny Henderson on Hammond organ gives sleazy texture and dynamics while holding down left hand bass lines, and "drummers' drummer" Evan Jenkins provides compelling grooves. But that's where any comparison with a traditional organ trio ends. With their huge sounding, multi-layered and rhythmically infectious delivery this band redefines the meaning of "power trio" and are unlike anything else on the Blues scene today.
In the Beginning…
Born in Manchester, Matt's family moved to Fairford in Gloucestershire when he was a youngster. He first started playing guitar seriously at 12. It was not the guitar heroes of that period (the late-eighties) that inspired him. Rather it was seeing a video of BB King, Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan playing together that fired Matt's imagination.
The call of music was strong. As soon as Matt finished college he ventured to London to check out the music scene, visiting the Blues jams around town, and was soon playing professionally. After touring and recording with the Lee Sankey Group, Matt was recruited by British Blues Diva, Dana Gillespie, to form part of her 'London Blues Band'. While all this was happening Matt consciously avoided being labelled a teenage wonder.
"When I started playing on the Blues circuit I was never comfortable with the 'hot young guitarist' label. Instead of being 'good for my age' I just wanted to be 'good'. So I decided to learn my trade first. I learned so much by backing other artists. What to do, and not do".
Working in the house band at many international festivals, including the Mustique Blues Festival for several years (often an exhausting 6 hours a night for 14 days) saw Matt backing a long list of artists, providing tremendous experience.
"The Trio came together almost by accident. Not having a bass player for a gig one night, we thought we'd give it a go with Jonny doing left-hand bass on the organ, and from the first note we knew we were onto something. People kept coming back to hear more and asking if we had a CD and where else they could see us. One of those 'if it feels good, it is good' things.
"The unique format of the organ trio allows an unusual freedom of improvisation and interaction. It's exciting because it's different every time! It's a very collaborative, sum of the parts thing.
"Jonny's extremely talented and the perfect keyboard foil for me. He has learned from many of the same musicians as I did, so he knows how to back me up perfectly, but can also really tear it up in his own right. His left hand bass gives The Trio such a distinctive groove plus, like me, he's a real 'tone' guy and has nailed that vintage Hammond sound.
"I'm very proud to have Evan involved. He's one of my favourite drummers anywhere. I have played together with him more than any other drummer, in many different situations. His feel and timing are second to none. Evan can play it all - Jazz, Rock, Pop, but he also has a natural feel for blues, and he always does it his own way."