The last few reviews of John Scofield albums have pretty much been the same. I’m amazed how a guy can change directions so effortlessly. This one continues that change of direction. Once a bopper of great chops, he now is a funkster of great chops. Almost all the tunes here are as funky as you wanna be. That’s as in “hard funk.” Scofield’s solos are amazing examples of melody though. Even through the funk, his slightly chorused, jagged guitar lines cut through with very hummable melodies. All the other aspects you’ve grown to love about Sco’s playing are highlighted here too. Quirky licks and sounds are everywhere. And he uses dissonance about as well as any guitar player ever (okay, maybe some rockers used it well too, but I’m guessing their’s were mistakes that sounded good).
Pretty much all of the 11 cuts here sound fresh and vital. “Acidhead” has a mid-eastern sounding intro that breaks into a funky groove without losing the mid-eastern sound. Over it all, the sitar-ish guitar cooks. “Ideofunk” has a borrowed melody line I know, but can’t place. Incredibly hummable jazz-funk. Scofield’s bop chops are still highlighted on occasion too. “Jungle Fiction” has a guitar break in the middle that would fit in any jam session from any generation of boppers. “Snap, Crackle, Pop” is aptly titled. Crisp funk that does nothing but cook.
The band here is fine too. For the first time (that I know of anyway), Scofield uses a rhythm guitarist, Avi Bortnick, who livens up the funk and lets the guitars intertwine nicely. Jesse Murphy on bass and Adam Deitch on drums round things out. Needless to say, music like this doesn’t work without a cookin’ rhythm section. Throw in some keyboards from John Medeski on a few cuts and you’ve got a band of guys who can deliver the goods. And, they do. I’ve said it before, and I still think so. Scofield has to be at the top of the ranks of jazz players, and guitarists in general right now. False steps aren’t part of his vocabulary. That’s pretty amazing considering the chances he takes.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.