“Remember,” guitarist John Scofield said backstage before his performance at the Ystad Jazz Festival, “this is my rock band.” Is it ever. Formally named The John Scofield Über Jam Band, the quartet operates with an array of electronic and digital enhancements that gives it volume and intensity that a big band—even a couple of big bands—might be hard-pressed to equal.
“We should be tight,” Scofield said. “We’ve done 24 concerts in 27 days on the road in Europe.” Indeed, the solidarity of the group was impressive as it challenged the ability of the 120-year-old Ystad Theatre’s foundations to withstand shaking. Scofield and rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick operated a collection of foot controls, and Bortnick a laptop computer, that made the Über Band concert a techno adventure. And yet, in pieces like “Snake Dance,” “Boogie, Stupid” and “Snap, Crackle, Pop,” it was sophisticated harmonic content as the guitarists interacted with one another and with electric bassist Andy Hess that justified the band’s inclusion in a jazz festival.
Quivers and shakes at the ends of phrases are trademarks of Scofield’s performances, and at Ystad there were plenty of them. Drummer Terence Higgins reacted to Scofield’s and Bortnick’s emphatic rhythmic turns with snaps, crackles, pops and other licks that complemented the guitarists’ ideas. The way he and Hess locked up was one indicator that the band is as tight as Scofield claimed. Higgins’s musical heritage is evident in his adaptations of the parade-beat tradition of his native New Orleans. Advanced electronica may not have been the main interest of an Ystad audience whose average age looked to be well above 50, but the Über Jammers inspired a standing ovation