John Scofield / The John Scofield Band

Überjam

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In the jazz world, there are artists who are consistent but predictable and artists who are unpredictable but inconsistent. John Scofield, meanwhile, is an impressive example of a jazzman who is both unpredictable and consistent. You never know what the risk-taking guitarist will do from one album to the next, but he rarely provides an album that is flat-out disappointing. Überjam is a major departure from 2000's Works for Me, the Verve date that preceded it. While Works for Me is essentially a straight-ahead post-bop outing and employs acoustic-oriented players, like pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Christian McBride, Überjam is pure, unadulterated fusion. This album always has a jazz mentality -- Überjam is as spontaneous, free-spirited, and uninhibited as any bop session that was recorded in Rudy Van Gelder's studio in the '50s -- but on Überjam, having a jazz mentality doesn't mean excluding elements of funk, rock, and, at times, hip-hop and club music. To those who fancy themselves jazz purists, the phrase "pure, unadulterated fusion" will sound like an oxymoron; if jazz is fused, how can it be real, authentic jazz? But then, George Duke hit the nail on the head when he asserted that jazz was always fusion; even back in the days of Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver, jazz had a variety of influences. It simply became more fused when Miles Davis recorded Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way in the late '60s. And speaking of Davis, much of Überjam reflects Scofield's years with that restless trumpeter. Like many of Davis' fusion efforts, Überjam has no problem being cerebral and funky at the same time. The material tends to be abstract and intellectual, but not at the expense of grit. Überjam is yet another excellent album from an improviser who refuses to be predictable.

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