OK, I will tell you right now that I am a huge fan of the original “Uberjam” CD that John Scofield did, I consider it to be as ground breaking as “Kind Of Blue” was with Miles Davis in the 60s in that it addresses the current culture in the same way, giving them a form of jazz with all it’s improvisational elements and composition values in a format that they can relate to and get into. Scofield started doing the “jam band” festivals along with other jazz cross overs like Medeski, Martin, and Wood and I would guess that the “Uberjam” concept was born from what he learned from that. I saw the Uberjam reunion band at the Monterey Jazz Festival about 5 years ago and they were pretty much orgasmic in their ability to take a groove higher and higher, so I was totally psyched when Amazon told me that there was a new “Uberjam Deaux” with the same band on it, so I ordered it immediately – if it’s possible, it’s even better than the original.
Let me start by a slight qualifier – I am pretty sure that the first two tracks were created for college radio, and it’s not that they’re bad or anything, but if you’re already a fan of what Scofield does and don’t need to be coaxed into being able to hear this music, you might want to just start listening at track three after you’ve given them a once over. Now let’s get at the meat, and there’s PLENTY:
“Endless Summer” (see the transcription of Scofield’s solo I did in the transcription section here) is pretty much just what it says, a really cool funky summer vibe, with a very cool ‘countermelody” that has just the right amount of hip chromatic movement. The first thing that I was hit with on this record was just how well it was recorded, especially the bass – it’s huge in your face, but never eats up the track – much kudos to Sears Sound in NYC where it was recorded. And Andy Hess is just a fantastic funk bass player who locks incredibly with the drummer, so you REALLY want to hear what he is doing.
Then you can “Lively Yourself Up” with their “Dub Dub” reggae track, with another strong but simple melody that your girlfriend will not mind you having on around the house at all. “Al Green Song” and “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” are other tunes here where John shows how he put his own twist on any genre with an infectious melody and soulful soloing.
“Cracked Ice” is where rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick will show you why being called “a rhythm guitarist” does NOT mean you don’t play well enough to solo – he plays the coolest, smartest funk grooves that exist, and everyone needs to get into this guy if you don’t know him. Scofield’s melody even features the “last bad note” in the melody, major 7 against a dominant 7th chord – which he makes the coolest note you ever heard by what he plays that leads up to it.
“Snake Dance” is an utterly hypnotic groove, with a great harmony funk part from Avi, and some great backwards effects at the top from ‘Sco. It gets redundant to keep saying what strong melodies John writes, but this is yet another example – melodies are NOT what happens before you get to the solos in this band, and that’s a lot of what makes the “Uberjam” concept so successful. Scofield delivers another finely crafted solo that builds and builds, with more of his cool effects seasoned in just to taste.
The drummers on this CD, Louis Cato and Adam Deitch (my pick for “fastest boog-a-loo in the world”), are at the top of the new young jazz groove drummers, and weave their drumming into electronic percussion very creatively. A perfect example of that is my favorite track has to be the “Nardis”-esque “Torero”, a pulsating Phrygian modal tune with a hip little release section, and really cool samples from Avi. Seeing this band live you will really appreciate what he does and the balancing act that he does with the samples, delays, etc. to make it all work. You can see how this stuff would send the jam band crowd into a trance, but it’s just so interesting as well with the great melodies, effects, electronic percussion, and of course Scofield’s masterful solos.
The “Uberjam Band”is currently on tour, and I will see them this weekend here in Los Angles at UCLA’s Royce Hall – if you’re free, come out, I know they will rock the house and jazz your head – but this uber-funky soulful disc is a great substitute if you can’t make it.
Doug Perkins, JGS
Los Angeles, Oct. 2, 2013.