John Scofield with Überjam Quartet
Wed-10-Jul-2013 • Main Festival Stage • Halifax Jazz Festival (link)
John Scofield, 61, brought his Überjam quartet with him to Halifax last night. As I had hoped and expected, his new rhythm section was tight. Tight like a piper’s snare drum, tight. They locked into every tempo as though running with a click track.
Scofield played a few of his earlier hits, but focused quite a bit on new repertoire. All of his tunes showcased his own soloing, which is what lots of the guitarheads out there were likely hoping for. Another wide section of the audience was mostly there for the killer grooves, though. And lots of those people wanted to get their bodies into it; Scofield invited them all up to the front of the stage for the last tune of the night.
Special mention goes to the guitarist Avi Bortnick, 50, who rocked hard on rhythm guitar all night long and who also laid down several bits of drum and bass programming that added hugely to the show. When Bortnick’s deliciously simple, bass-heavy beats and effects started pumping in the last few tunes, the audience responded almost viscerally to it. It was clear that Scofield really got into it at that point, too.
Another special mention goes to the video projections on each side of the stage. They looked to me like the work of local bassist and artist Lukas Pearse, who uses a video mixer and a visual effects processor to take multiple camera feeds and blend them into a colourful video feed that the audience can watch beside the live musicians. Audience members more accustomed to the stock-still video feeds on the JumboTron at The Metro Centre were probably wondering if there was something wrong with the festival’s video system last night. But for me, it was all part of the jazz: expect the unexpected.