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Mysterious Traveler - Jeff Scull

Jeff Scull 1

Mysterious Traveler 4 Concert Series

February, 26th, 2018 / Jeff Scull

Parkway Central Library | Montgomery Auditorium
1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189


All events in this series are FREE.


Mysterious Travelers 4: Further Investigations - a collaboration between The Free Library of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Jazz Project. Back by overwhelming popular demand! FREE concerts on Monday nights from September 2017 through May 2018; audiences will hear from veteran, as well as up-and-coming musicians who are shaping the future sounds of Philadelphia with a sharp ear to the legacies of our past. This season our artists will continue to celebrate the massive and amazing collections of the Free Library by exploring them as a source of inspiration for the creation of new musical works.


Jeff Scull is a jazz guitarist, composer, and teacher who has been active in the Philadelphia Jazz scene for the past 15 years. He is a graduate of the University of the Arts and holds a master's degree in Jazz studies. He has worked with various Philly musicians including V. Shayne Frederick, Kendrah Butler, Nimrod Speaks, Don Glanden, Larry McKenna, Paul Jost, and many others. Jeff Scull has performed at World Cafe Live, Saitama Arena (Japan), South Kitchen & Jazz Parlour, Cibo Ristorante Italiano, Chris' Jazz Cafe, The Saffron House, Paris Wine Bar, Sassafras Bar and Grill, Tritone, and the Reserve Wine Bar. He also worked with the Philadelphia Jazz Project as the Music Director for their Frosty 3 Holiday Concert in 2015.


Jeff Scull 2Guitarist and composer, Jeff Scull will be our next guest artist in the Mysterious Traveler Concert Series. In his concert, Jeff Scull will use the work of the late, Flemish artist, Frans Masereel and his wordless novel, "My Book Of Hours." Scull will use this work as inspiration and attempt to translate the visual creation into sound.


PJP spoke with Jeff Scull about his music, approach and the new project that he will reveal in the Mysterious Traveler Concert Series.


PJP: Can you briefly describe your musical direction?



Jeff Scull:  ​I would say I’m mostly a straight ahead type player, although I’ve enjoyed working on projects that have ventured into other territory. I’ve come to believe that the process of becoming a better composer, improviser and performer is really a process of distillation, of burning away what’s not important until you arrive at what is. I have a long way to go, but I want to get to a point eventually where I’m playing just what is essential.


PJP: What and whom are pivotal musical influences on your creative approach?

Jeff Scull: Miles Davis is a big one for sure. From a guitar standpoint, I’d have to say Pat Martino is a huge influence on me, not only because of his playing style but because of his outlook on life and music. I also listen to a lot of pianists because I love the harmonic richness of players like Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Fred Hersch... etc. I’m always looking for ways to integrate those influences into my own playing, which is tough because I don’t think the guitar lends itself so easily to those more impressionistic sounds.


PJP: What are you going to present at the Mysterious Traveler Concert Series?


Jeff Scull: ​ I’m composing a series of pieces based on a wordless novel by the artist Frans Masereel, called, "My Book Of Hours." My intention, as much as possible, is to convey the story sonically through compositions and improvisation.


Frans Masereel 1


PJP: Why is this theme/concept so important?


Jeff Scull: For me personally, an association between the visual and the aural has always been a natural way to conceive of music. I often visualize when I listen to or make music. My Book of Hours is a wordless novel that Frans Masereel created by carving elaborate images into wood blocks, and then printing them using black ink. Masereel creates detailed scenes by using the black spaces (the blank ink) against the empty negative spaces (the paper). In much the same way, I like to think  of silence as being the empty space that gives shape to the music we improvise. You have to know how to use the silence in combination with sound to create imagery.


PJP:  Can you explain your process and the steps that led to this performance?


Jeff Scull: I took a trip to the Free Library of Philadelphia, where they were currently holding an exhibition on graphic novels, and met with Alina Josan, one of the librarians in the art department. She was extremely knowledgeable and showed me graphic novels from all over the world, and from all different time periods. I was really fascinated because to me “graphic novel” meant “comic book”, but that turned out not to be the case. When she showed me some of woodblock prints by Frans Masereel, something really clicked with me.


Check out Jeff Scull in action with Michael Andrews on Valentine's Day 2014


PJP: How do you manage the task of creating and encouraging fresh, new, forwarding moving musical ideas while simultaneously exploring, celebrating and documenting the past?


Jeff Scull: We often think of jazz history in a linear way. First, you have New Orleans, the Swing, then Bebop, then Hard Bop, Free Jazz ...etc.  But the truth is that each individual’s discovery of their own style is like a mini jazz history all it’s own. Each individual player has a unique story, a unique struggle to find their voice, that is like their fingerprint. In that sense, even if you are playing in a style, or genre that is not new, you’re still a product of your time. You are still a culmination of influences and experiences that are happening NOW.


PJP: When listening to your music what advice would you give the audience to assist with greater understanding and enjoyment?


Jeff Scull: ​As far as my concept is concerned, if it’s convenient I would encourage people to check out the collections at the Free Library of Philadelphia, particularly graphic novels from the early 20th century by Frans Masereel and others. But regardless, I think to enjoy any performance of jazz, you should really try and immerse yourself in the present moment. Let everything go and just be there fully.


Jeff Scull 2PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?


Jeff Scull: There’s a strong spiritual element for me, and I don’t mean spiritual as in any specific religion, but spiritual in the sense of those moments in jazz when you sort of lose awareness of yourself and merge with the music. Moments when an inspired idea seems to come out of your finger tips without your participation, or those eerie ESP-like instances where you and the musicians you’re playing with seem to play the same things at the same time without having thought of it. It’s rare to get to that place, but honestly the memory of those experiences is what keeps me going even when I’m down.


Mysterious Traveler 4 Concert Series

February, 26th, 2018 / Jeff Scull

Parkway Central Library | Montgomery Auditorium
1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189


All events in this series are FREE.


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Mysterious Traveler 4 - Further Investigations Concert Series is produced by Philadelphia Jazz Project in collaboration with The Free Library of Philadelphia.


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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.


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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.