IOWA CITY, Iowa (September 4, 2013) — I remember the days when I would run to the Cedar Rapids public library to check out the CD’s coming out from Blue Note and this studio called Shacklyn in Brooklyn. There was this amazing sound coming from folks like Medeski, Martin and Wood and DJ Logic that I couldn’t get enough of. Somewhere in the middle of all that I fell across John Scofield and was immediately mesmerized. When I heard he was playing a set at the Englert, I was stoked. The show was amazing, but don’t take my word for it; check out this review from one of my favorite contributors, Nathan Emerson. He’s the guy that brought us the bad arse interview with William Elliott Whitmore. Photos below . . .
SNAP CRACKLE POP >> DROP AND ROLL
I BRAKE FOR MONSTER BOOTIE
John Scofield Überjam Band Review by Nathan Emerson
So there are two words that described John Scofield’s Überjam Band performance at the Englert Theatre Wednesday night. The first one that comes to mind is Speechless but after mulling it over RESFRESHING comes quickly to mind. His style of jazz he self described as funk-fusion-post-bop. Post-bop is well suited leaving us feeling we were in the future of avant-garde jazz. The show opened with guitarist Avi Bortnick playing samples from his Macbook –literally right out of the speakers and the sound filled the theatre just as Tony Mason and Andy Hess kicked in with the rhythm section. Soon Avi played maniacal staccato chops of bar chords all over the neck before the man of the hour Sco took lead. Avi who co-wrote many of the songs with Sco and created his own samples on the go along with parts from the other members of the band. These were then looped or played backwards and the layers constructed an even more complicated twist to improvise over. Mr. Scofield ate it up and was surprised by some of the sounds, it was obvious he was having fun. The pictures show his guitar face often as a sour yawn while playing but when he pointed for the band members turn he would dance and grin to the groove they created. One of the fun parts was watching him instruct them and hear him shout out cues just like the old jazz days.
The audience was filled with jazz students who were assigned to go along with old jazz heads whose minds were blown and some who just came for a live band. Everyone soaked it in different ways from melting into the chair or at the edge tapping feet and bobbing their heads. It was a live concert but at times I closed my eyes just to see what would visualize and try to focus on each separate instrument or sound. The sound was impeccable and Sco brought his own soundman that by the second set had it perfected. Stunned and speechless mostly everyone had to sit yet a few younger people trickled out to the sides to dance double fisting beer.
The song Curtis Knew was a melody driven song played by each member. Avi whistled the melody along to Sco’s guitar, then they did a duet together blending their guitars and one would drop out and let the other finish. The drummer Tony Mason, also at one point tapped the sides of the cymbals to the tune melody not the rhythm. On other songs he switched between snares played off of the samples Avi played. Each new song breathed extra life into the band and audience. Namely Ideofunk and Cracked Ice were both highlights before slowing down into the reggae sound of Dub Dub and taking a short break and a second set.
Something special was in the air tonight as we were treated, yet many didn’t ever know why. John’s merchandise and some gear were temporarily lost during his flight leaving him to play a guitar onstage for the first time. And it was a baby blue Telecaster, not the Ibanez that he swears by and played for years! A new toy — just think of the fun he had. He never mentioned it once, but did apologized he didn’t have merch joking he forgot it at home. John took a moment and talked to the crowd before the encore about the diversity of the crowd, and thanked them for staying the entire show. He also interacted with them making a few jokes but taking seriously the dangers of drugs and how he doesn’t use because he wouldn’t be making music at his age. Mentioning their old drummer now plays to those kids, and played the recent festival that shut down due to people OD’ing. He then encouraged everyone to cut loose and dance since mostly everyone was already standing for the encore and a standing ovation. As if the room could no longer get filled with energy the people absorbed it all and sent it back to the band. It felt refreshing.
So I will end this the same way I began it, with a personal note and advice. If you go to see an experimental and improvisational jazz concert at a theatre, it is a great idea to wear a suit and a Jerry Garcia tie. And if you have a chance to dance during the encore –do it! You feel like you are skanking like the hype man for the Mighty Bosstones! Even if you aren’t in a suit, more bands need a hype man.
Thank you John Scofield for creating another turning point in my love of live music. Thank you Englert for keeping it a classy show. And thank you Iamnotjerry.com for allowing me to be a guest reviewer … might I mention my tickets were won off this site!