Grammy-winner and Wilton native John Scofield takes the stage in Ridgefield

To call John Scofield legendary isn’t hyperbole. The Wilton-born guitarist revolutionized jazz in the late ’70s, with an improvised sound that falls somewhere between post-bop, funk-edged jazz and R&B.

After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he appeared on a recording with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, and followed that up playing with the likes of Billy Cobham, Charles Mingus and Gary Burton.

Scofield toured with Miles Davis from 1982-1985 and became an acclaimed international bandleader. The three-time Grammy Award winner was even called one of the most prolific and admired jazz musicians of his generation by NPR.

On April 24, Scofield will play two shows at the Ridgefield Playhouse is a chance for people to hear his incredible sound. Scofield recently chatted with Hearst CT Media about the upcoming show and his musical career.

What made you pick up the guitar as a youngster?

In the early ’60s, music was a big deal, and I was failing at little league, so my mom said I should try playing guitar. I liked it and stuck with it. People were impressed by this little 12-year-old band that I had. I was really interested in music and loved it, so it just came natural to me. I was ready for a life of guitar lessons and playing gigs and being part of the music world.

Normally, you average 200 days on the road a year playing. What have you been doing to occupy your time this past year?

Like most musicians, I have been grounded. The last live show I played was a little over a year ago. I did a couple of little streaming things, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to playing. This is the most I have been home since 1975.

You must really be looking forward to your upcoming performance then.

Ridgefield will be my first, real, in-person performance. People like me, who play jazz, have to practice all the time. I write music and am always working on learning new music, which is what I do all the time anyway. But I thrive off of performing and can’t wait to hit the stage. I miss playing with human beings. You get used to working with them and listening to them.

Do you find that your new music is changing because of the circumstances we’re in? Are the tunes more somber or different than what you may have previously written?

There are subtle differences, but I’m getting to stuff that I didn’t have time to get to because I was on the road. What I think I’ve gotten good at is solo guitar playing, which I never worked on. Whether the music is reflecting the awfulness of the pandemic, I’m not sure. There are no words in my songs, but it might come through depending on the listener.

What can you preview about the Ridgefield performance?

This will be a solo gig, which means the pressure is really on. I do use a looping thing, that allows you to play along with yourself, so that expands the sounds of what I can do. I’ll have some rock n’ roll tunes that I’ve always loved, and then some jazz standards and some obscure songs.

Your latest album, Swallow Tales, just came out in June, but you mentioned you’ve been writing a lot. Do you think another album is on the horizon?

I recorded that album with my trio more than a year ago, and it’s all songs written by Steve Swallow who has been my mentor over the years. He turned 80 this year and I wanted to get that out as an homage to him. Because of the pandemic, I am going to do a solo guitar record that I’ve been recording at home, so that’s almost ready.

You’ve played with Miles Davis and some other luminaries of jazz. What did you learn from playing with such icons?

I’ve gotten to play with a lot of my idols. The jazz message that I’ve gotten from the elders in jazz, and just from doing music so long, is that it’s fun to be creative on the spot. That’s what the jazz musicians showed us we can do. And something else happens when you let it fly and improvise that’s different from working it out until it’s perfect.

John Scofield will perform at the Ridgefield Playhouse at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24. For more information, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

Keith Loria is a freelance writer.