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Just before kicking into a drum infused tune called "Jungle Fiction" off his new album entitled Uberjam, John Scofield said to the crowd, "If you can't groove in Philly, you can't groove." And groove he did. John Scofield and his solid backing band laid down a heavy mix of grooves and jazz at the Trocadero on Thursday night to a crowd of all ages, all there to see just how wide he could stretch the boundaries of jazz music. The onlookers were a varied mix of dreadlocked jam addicts and silver-haired jazz aficionados who had heard of Scofield either through his collaborations with the jazz fusion trio Medeski, Martin and Wood or his early 80's work with the legendary Miles Davis. The influences of both experiences were evident in the music that teetered on the brink of psychedelia while still remaining rooted in jazz. The opening tune "Acidhead" saw Scofield strutting across the stage while giving nice jazz fills to the wa-drenched rhythm guitar and bizarre samples that were the staple of fellow band member Avi Bortnick. The title track from his new CD Uberjam lived up to its name as John Scofield let his fingers run up and down the neck of his guitar while staying within the distinctly techno beat and pre-recorded handclaps.
Throughout the show, the band was very tight and proved its versatility in the ways of jazz fusion. But the highlight of the show was "Snap Crackle Pop" which started off slow and gradually built its way to a musical frenzy that displayed some of the most creative playing of the night. Avi Bortnick, an architectural acoustics student who essentially left to join the Scofield circus, played a rhythm guitar that threatened to send his hand flying up into the rafters with its pure speed and energy. Meanwhile bassist Jesse Murphy created a musical whirlwind as he switched the sound back and forth between the left and right speakers. All of this led into a wa-laden trade-off between Scofield and Bortnick that mesmerized the crowd.
After ten songs that averaged at least ten minutes in length a-piece and that showcased the many effects pedals they had at their disposal, the band returned to encore with "Kool" which kept the crowd energized into the night.
The bill was shared with Metagroove, which served up an excellent dose of sonic mayhem to prepare the crowd for a jazz show tailor-made for Philly.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.