John Scofield – Überjam

Here’s something for the jazz lovers – John Scofield’s Überjam mixes jazz fusion with world music and electronica and creates a new path for the future of jazz. The result is a record that may not appeal to all jazz fans, but should win him a few listeners that love jam bands and electronica.

John Scofield has been around a while. He played with Miles Davis and Billy Cobham’s bands, and must have learned from them the value of getting inspiration from other cultures and new technologies. Recently, Scofield has been building bands, much like Davis did, that explore new combinations or fusions of sounds. Scofield’s albums have been mixing up jazz with funk and rock for years, but this is the first that explores world and electronica so heavily.

On Überjam, his Scofield has collected a group of monstrously talented players. Avi Bortnick helps out on guitars and samples, Jesse Murphy on bass, and the funky Adam Deitch on drums. This group has been touring with Phish, and the tunes on this album show off the tightness that the band has achieved.

The album shows off many influences, and Scofield and his bands jump from one influence to another within tunes. There’s Indian samples to start off the album, on “Acidhead”, that melt into funk bass and guitar. “Jungle Fiction” is a slow jazz-rock jam for the first three minutes, when a Propellerhead-style techno bass comes in, along with phased percussion and other electronica effects.

“I Brake 4 Monster Booty” is a funk jam with a rap sandwiched inbetween. The rap will entertain jazz listeners, with riffs like “Rappers want to flex….Sco rocked with Miles and he’s one of the best”. Their’s a lot of explorative guitar playing on this cut, and even some backwards-sounding guitar.

The title cut, Überjam, is one of the most interesting. It mixes techno synths and kick drum, with jazz-fusion. The result is very funky, and a new sound for jazz. The electronica influences aren’t heavy on this album, though. It seems more like some of the younger member’s of Scofield’s band have brought in some of their influences.

“Snap, Crackle, Pop rocks on top of techno beats courtesy of Roland. The drum machines take the kick drum and clicks, and Deitch fills in with the rest of the kit. It’s a little bit techno, it’s a little bit funk, it’s a little bit jazz.

The bottom line on this album is the skillful playing. Scofield has a fusion-rock sound that is heavy and jagged. Deitch’s drumming is beyond funky, and he rocks when he needs to. Murphy throw in skillful bass, and Bortnick helps out with rhythm guitar, and some tastefully used electronica.

While very eclectic, Überjam is also very tight and cohesive. Because this band straddles categories, the album may not be for everybody. If you’re into jazz fusion that’s experimental, yet still funky and tuneful, Überjam is worth checking out!

Leave a Reply