John Scofield’s Uberjam: Funkified Jazz

Überjam is a great acid/funk jazz album by John Scofield, one of my favorite jazz guitarists. His style is not as fast and frenetic as Al di Meola and John Mclaughlin nor is he as mellow as Pat Methany and Bill Frisell. He is comfortably in between and is always exploring new avenues and styles. This album introduced me to the drumming of Adam Deitch and got me started on appreciating Scofield’s solo albums. Überjam was the first album to be recorded by this group consisting of Avi Bortnick (rhythm guitar, samples), Jesse Murphy (bass), Adam Deitch (drums), and of course John Scofield on lead guitar. This album also has John Medeski on organ and Karl Denson on flute as guest musicians. Überjam is a great accessible fusion jazz/funk album. It is not overtly complicated and difficult to listen to and I think this is in part due to the beats laid down by Deitch and the rhythm guitar work of Avi Bortnick. The main stars of the album are Scofield and Deitch. Their jazz guitar and funky drumming have great chemistry together which is only amplified by Avi’s guitar and sample work which adds to  the funk and electronica feel of the album. I really like how Avi will add effects to the drums which also adds to the funk/electronica sound of the album. “Jungle Fiction” is a great example of how they use this technique. After this album was released in 2002 Jesse Murphy left and was replaced by Andy Hess (Gov’t Mule, The Black Crowes) on bass. They followed this album up one year later with Up All Night and then ten years later with Überjam Deux. While all these albums have their merit, I like Überjam the best. To me it has the most energy and is the most experimental of their albums. Every song on this album is good but I would have to say that “Offspring” is probably my favorite track and does a good job of showing off how this album combines rock/jazz/funk/and electronic music.

I had the pleasure of seeing this band live twice. Once at the Roseland Theater in support of their Überjam album and once at the Oregon Zoo summer concerts in support of their Up All Night album. They are even better live, which is the case for most good jazz, and I highly recommend seeing them. Scofield is currently touring Europe with the Uberjam band with Dennis Chambers in place of Adam Deitch on drums and I hope they come to the States because I would absolutely love to see them a third time.

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