Überjam (Verve)

The John Scofield Band 

Überjam (Verve)

Seated in the middle of the pseudo-Indian cover design to John Scofield's Überjam is the jazz guitarist himself, portrayed as a smug, four-armed male variant of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, seated in the lotus asana and grasping an electric guitar with an effects pedal tucked beneath his right foot. Never mind the obvious disconnect between Hinduism and the Nietchzian slant of the disc's title; in the end, it mirrors the slapdash amalgam of musical inspirations from which the disc draws its energy. Besides, a simple tie-dye design would have been too obvious.

Scofield's résumé includes collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, but it was his 1998 partnership with Medeski, Martin and Wood that attracted an earthier audience to his brand of fringe jazz. Überjam is the result of three years of touring within that jam scene, a studio effort that attempts to distill what Scofield and his band mates -- drummer Adam Deitch, bassist Jesse Murphy and rhythm guitarist/samples guru Avi Bortnick -- have learned in that time.

Invoking the cover illustration's mood with sitar and tamboura tape loops and Deitch's tablalike drum fills, the opening track "Acidhead" then slides into a deep funk strut with the help of Scofield's wah-wah guitar and Murphy's heavy-hitting bass work. Later, the group explores the opposite end of the spectrum with the house/electronica leanings of the disc's title track. While Scofield's improvisational work is engaging, the quartet moves best as a unit in which individual solo efforts quickly become communal property. MMW organist John Medeski and saxophonist/flutist Karl Denson, both of whom make guest appearances on a handful of tracks, find themselves in welcoming environs.

Most of the group's songs translate well from the live format, but some remain you-had-to-be-there jokes, such as Deitch's horrific hip-hop offering "I Brake for Monster Booty." And though Überjam moves nimbly from fusion to funk to psychedelic ambience, it never says anything gratifyingly substantial. Still, for listeners looking to clear their chakras and feed their inner übermensch, this is nirvana.

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