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John Scofield Überjam Review

Album. Released 29 January 2002.  

BBC Review

...Scofield is back where he is happiest ...

John Eyles 2002

Based solely on visual evidence, one could easily think that Scofield had lost it on this album. The stylised Indian artwork of the cover picture depicts him as a naked, four-armed Hindu god with a beatific smile on his face and a guitar in his lap.

The first track (alarmingly entitled "Acidhead") opens with the sound of sitar and tabla, raising the possibility of this becoming some rambling, spaced-out, meaning-of-life opus. But Scofield's only teasing. A minute into the track, Avi Bortnick's choppy wah-wah rhythm guitar kick starts proceedings, closely followed by Jesse Murphy on bass and drummer Adam Deitch, who prove to be as funky as The Meters. Yes, Scofield is back where he is happiest (and most successful), playing jazz-rock fusion with a tight band. Add eleven catchy Scofield originals, plus timely guest appearances by keyboardist John Medeski and saxophonist Karl Denson, and this album deserves to be a surefire winner.

Scofield claims (quoted on the cover sticker) that, of all the albums he has made, this is the one his old boss, Miles Davis, would have enjoyed most. Easy to say, hard to (dis)prove; Miles is hardly going to argue from beyond the grave. But the album does combine jazz and funk in a way that extends Miles' own work from the 80s. He would have rated the title track, which features one of Sco's most fluid, flowing solos, and extensively quotes from "Blue Moon", radically reinventing the standard. And Miles would doubtless sympathise with the album's low point; Deitch's short rap on "I Brake 4 Monster Booty" is as ill-judged as anything on Doo Bop.

Nevertheless, this is a very enjoyable and commercially astute album (don't be deterred by the look of it). Recommended.

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