The opening seconds of "Acidhead, the first track of guitarist John Scofield's latest recording, Uberjam, are enough to alert the jazz purist that the road ahead might be bumpy. The tune opens with what sounds like a sitar""but with all the electronics on this recording, it could be a sample, a keyboard, or Scofield's guitar""soon giving way to a seriously funky groove laid down by drummer Adam Deitch and bassist Jesse Murphy, over which Scofield, et. al.(Avi Bortnick on rhythm guitar and samples, John Medeski on keyboards, and Karl Denson on sax and flute), take improvisational liberties.
Scofield has always defied easy categorization, over the years releasing recordings with rock rhythms and electronics as well as more straight-ahead jazz material. This time, though, he has outdone himself. Is this electronica, dance music, acid jazz""or just jazz on acid? "Acidhead sets the tone for the entire project""breaks with a variety of sampled sounds, effects moving from one speaker to the other and back again, distortion""up-to-the-minute technology brought to bear on some tricks of an earlier rock generation. The name of the game is sound as much as music. In less skillful hands, the result might not have been as musical, but I like it more each time I hear it. If I had only a single word to describe this CD, that word would be "funky. To be sure, it is groove-ladenthere is not a single tune to which even the most rhythmically impaired individual would have difficulty dancing.
If you want to dance to "Jungle Fiction, though, you might consider doing it in half-time. While most of the solo lines on this CD are simpler than on many of Scofield's past recordings, here, the frenetic tempo causes him to solo with higher density, including some trademark fast runs. "I Brake 4 Monster Booty, good advice if only to avoid serious automotive damage, is as good a tune as the name is funny. I say that as someone not enamored of rap in any form, even though the track features a short rap by the drummer, Deitch. This one is the best tune on the CD, with a groove that's a real keeper. Another favorite is "Tomorrow Land, a pretty melody that comes as close to being a ballad as anything on the disc.
Is there a final verdict on this CD? Scofield himself says, "Almost every interviewer asks me about my past experience with Miles Davis. Out of all the albums I've made""I think this is the one that Miles would have approved of and enjoyed the most. He was always looking to take jazz to a new place. Of course, Davis's "new place, of which Scofield was a part, is itself still a divisive topic in jazz circles. While some fans, myself included, will not enjoy every track on Uberjam, open-minded listeners are sure to find something they like.
Acidhead; Ideofunk; Jungle Fiction; I Brake 4 Monster Booty; Animal Farm; Offspring; Tomorrow Land; Uberjam; Polo Towers; Snap Crackle Pop; Lucky For Her.
John Scofield: electric guitar; Avi Bortnick: rhythm guitar and samples; Jesse Murphy: bass; Adam Deitch: drums; John Medeski: B3 organ and mellotron (2, 9); Karl Denson: saxophone and flute (2, 9).
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