He’s performed at major festivals, concert halls, and beer-soaked dives here and abroad (Asia, Brazil, Canada, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East) including Monterey Jazz Festival (CA), Herbst Jazz Festival (Austria), St. Lucia Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz, 2002 Silde Jazz (Norway); Ottawa Jazz Festival; Detroit Jazz Festival, Berlin Chamber Music Hall (Germany); the Blue Note (NYC); Joe’s Pub (NYC); Catalina Jazz Club (LA), to name a few.
Born in Chicago, Sawyer was introduced to jazz and other music at an early age via his father’s record collection, which included recordings by John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson and others. Early on, Jimi Hendrix and Michael Bloomfield caught his ear and that led to blues and blues/roots influenced rock. Paul Butterfield, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Son Seals, Tim Buckley, The Doors, Tom Waits and so many others were early inspirations.
By the time he landed in Greensboro, NC as a junior in high school, Scott had lived in Chicago-land, Maine, and Texas. Already immersed in the Chicago blues, he was exposed to Southern roots/rock music and fusion. Eventually, jazz became a priority. Guitarist Jim Hall caught his ear and sparked a deeper interest in jazz guitar and harmony. He landed a steady gig in Greensboro at “Sammy’s”, with vibraphonist Jon Metzger and bassist Charles Dungey that lasted a couple of years. A few lessons with John Scofield and Mick Goodrick added fuel to the fire. From 1984-1996 Sawyer’s trio and special guests performed most Wednesdays at the legendary Pyewacket (restaurant/bar) in Chapel Hill, NC.
In 1985 Sawyer toured Central America as a member of the Jon Metzger Quartet (USIA Arts America Program). Since then, he has recorded and performed here and abroad with jazz singer Nnenna Freelon (1992 Philip Morris Superband World Tour and more), including performances in Europe, Norway, Brazil and Canada.
Sawyer has shared the stage and/or recorded with many artists of note, including John Abercrombie, Charlie Byrd, David Murray, Nnenna Freelon, Oteil Burbridge, ‘prima ballerina’ Marie-Christine Mouis, Kate McGarry, Tony Williamson, Bob Cranshaw, Buster Williams, Grady Tate, Kobie Watkins, Ron Brendle, Dave Finucane, Bill Anschell, Randy Johnston, Yusuf Salim, Ed Paolantonio, Willie Pickens, Ed Thigpen, Kenny Soule, Lois Deloatch, Carolyn Ghezzi, Danny Aiello; to name a few.
Sawyer’s latest album “Night Visions” was released in 2020. His previous album “Dreamers” (2013) included guest appearances by Kate McGarry. “Go There” (2007) featured Kofi and Oteil Burbridge and charted on XM Radio. “Guitarspeak” (EP, 1999) was preceded by “In The Stream” (1993). Sawyer has appeared on 45+ recordings spanning a range of genres including Abigail Dowd’s “Beautiful Day” (2021); David Childers and Bruce Piephoff “Army Town Madrigal” (2016); Stephen Anderson and the 360° Jazz Initiative’s “Distracted Society” (2015); Keith Water’s “Carolina Tracks” (2012, guitar and Associate Producer); Bruce Piephoff’s “Soft Soap Purrings” (2014, Co-Producer, electric/acoustic gtr) and “Still Looking Up at the Stars” (2012, Co-Producer, electric/acoustic gtr); “The Meldavians-Farewell to Arigemon” (2012); Nnenna Freelon’s “Homefree” (2010), her 1997 Grammy-Nominated “Shaking Free”, “Live” (Kennedy Center, 2003) and “Listen” (1993) albums; Lois Deloatch’s “Roots: Jazz, Blues Spirituals” (2010; guitar and Co-Producer) and Bill Anschell’s “a different note all together” (1998), to name a few. He arranged & recorded “The Glory Of Love” w/ actor Danny Aiello, as featured in the Cinecom film “Once Around”.
In 2013 Sawyer joined the Durham Jazz Workshop faculty where he leads adult and youth combos, instructs groups and offers individual instruction. He’s an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University (Greenville, NC, since 2010), guitar instructor at the UNC Summer Jazz Workshop (Chapel Hill, NC, since 2012), and was an adjunct instructor at UNC-CH (2012-2019).
Sawyer continues to perform often, freelancing jazz and other music, and leading his own groups. (1/3/2020).