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A Jazz Guitarist Interprets Ray Charles Classics

When the record label Verve approached veteran jazz guitarist John Scofield about an album of Ray Charles music, he says he was ready to dismiss the idea. He had never done a tribute album, and he certainly wouldn't have been the first to do one for Charles.

But then he considered the material: "It really resonated with me," he tells Scott Simon. "I grew up on that music." The resulting album, That's What I Say, also has appearances by singers John Mayer, Aaron Neville, Dr. John and Mavis Staples.

The 53-year-old guitarist, who has played with Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and the band Medeski, Martin and Wood, counts Charles among the reasons he got interested in jazz and R&B. Charles' hits from the '60s were a "common language" among bands when he would play in his early days, he says. Scofield will be speaking that language on tour in the U.S. and Europe this summer.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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