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Published: 2001/09/18
by Dan Alford

The John Scofield Band and The Slip @ Irving Plaza, NYC- 9/8

John Scofield is a man who thrives on new ideas and
youthful exuberance. For years now, The John Scofield
Band has employed some of the brightest young talent
before anyone knew their names. Even MMW, while well
known to many live music fans, did not receive much
wide spread acclaim until after 1998's A-Go-Go. As
such, it was only appropriate that Sco had The Miracle
Orchestra and The Slip opening a few select dates in
the North East. Either band would be a great opener,
but The Slip conjured some particularly intriguing
scenarios as Brad Barr has so much of Sco in his
approach and sound. The real treat, however, was that
Sco showed his respect and enthusiasm for his fellow
musicians by having a double bill at Irving Plaza.
The Rhode Island trio and the Connecticut/Hudson
Valley quartet each had an hour and a half set with
which to push the limits and thrill the packed venue.

The early portion of The Slip's set was plagued with
technical problems as Brad's amplifier went out,
followed by a busted string as soon as he returned to
the mix. Like the true professionals they are, Andrew
and Marc moved forward without hesitation, offering up
multiple extended drum and bass jams.

The bulk of the set was populated with mind-bending,
transcendent compositions and the free-form wobble
that has earned The Slip a national following of the
most discerning listeners. The more airy pieces
hovered around solid ideas without doing more than
describing their shapes, and actually brought Irving
Plaza to many moments of quiet awe. NYC fans will
understand just how hard it is to quiet IP. In turn,
heavier sections formed a thick condensation of notes
and beats, eliciting cheers from many newly made fans.

The continuation of The John Scofield Band's evolution
was apparent from the moment they took the stage.
Present members include drummer Adam Deitch (Lettuce,
Average White Band), bassist Jesse Murphy (who has
been with Sco for a while now, even playing on the It
Works For Me tour) and rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick
(whose impact is most apparent on the Bump album).
Avi also uses a sampler, and I was pleased to hear
that his skills have improved greatly since last year. At that time, I found his use of the instrument,
admittedly an eclectic one for the live concert
setting, to be simplistic and discordant with his
cunning rhythm work. He now clearly understands the
potential of the sampler, using it to create entire
song beds, landscapes on which the band could plant
gardens, erect cities or simply follow the flow. At
times the drum, bass and organ samples were so
pronounced that it seemed more like the Avi Bortnick
Band, featuring lead guitarist John Scofield- a sound
not so far removed from Project Logic. Actually, it
was wonderful to see the group coalesce so completely-
the interplay was authentic, with less head to head
soloing and more comprehensive jamming. To my ears,
it's the strongest line-up since the Marlen Browden,
Matt Garrison, Will Bullworth line-up from 1999.

Much of the material played was from a forthcoming
February 2002 release recorded in August, tentatively
entitled Uberjam. The tune of the same name closed
the set. It is essentially comprised of two large
sections: the first is a self referencing area that
reflects many of the compositions from the past 5
years, both unreleased and released; the second is
newer, reflecting many of the ambient trance grooves
that the band is currently producing. This
version was tighter than others I've heard, although I
do favor the one from GOTV with Kraz sitting in.
Other highlights included the second selection of the
evening, an as yet unnamed piece that was incredibly
bright and stitched with a catchy theme from Sco, and
Polo Towers, with its mix of angry tags and super
smooth passages and a fantastic bit of playing from
Jesse at the end. More familiar tunes included
Boozer, with big swing drums from Deitch, and a
reworking of She's So Lucky, a lush velvety number
that opened the show. The one disappointing moment in
the set had Dietch grabbing a microphone and giving a
short rap about Sco. Not every band can pull off the
addition of a rapper, and those that do leave the
rapping to the real MCs.

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