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John Scofield John Scofield Morrice Blackwell
The evening was ripe for the band to be in a festive mood. The date marked the release of their new album, Uberjam, and the opening night of their American tour. Two high-energy sets were testimony to the celebration. Early in the first set, one of Scofield’s pedals wasn’t working. He needed batteries. One of his many fans ran across the street and quickly returned with the double A’s. Scofield kept his cool and used the brief window to lighten up the crowd with his witty personality. With the pedal now intact, he quickly went into "Jeep on 35" and sailed smoothly through the rest of the show.

One of the defining aspects of Scofield’s new band is Avi Bortnick. An excellent guitarist who works well in the difficult terrain of Scofield’s idiosyncratic style, he is even more notable for his work as the sampler, adding new textures to Scofield’s evolving sound. The bassist, Jesse Murphy, was solid but soloed sparingly. Adam Deitch manned the drums. Very enthusiastic, he often created rhythmic variations of the samples provided by Bortnick, using them as a springboard for exploration. The synchronized melodies of Scofield and Bortnick reminded me, at times, of the interplay between Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew of King Crimson. The band as a whole was greater than the sum of its parts. It was apparent they have been working together for some time. They were well-rehearsed and, at the same time, spontaneous.

The show primarily featured music from their new album and a few tracks from Scofield’s work with Medeski, Martin and Wood, most notably a groove-oriented number entitled Boozer. Tracks from their new album catching my attention were Snap, Crackle, Pop, Tomorrow Land and Polo Towers, which was precluded by an interesting story about the origin of the song in Las Vegas. The highlight of the evening had to be the encore, when they jammed on a groove they made up during sound check. "After all," Scofield asked, "why have a jam band if we can’t jam?"

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Scofield
  • Concert Date: 1/29/2002
  • Subtitle: Opening Night of American Tour for the John Scofield Band
  • Venue: Shank Hall
  • City State Country: Milwaukee, WI, USA
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