It was a crowded, enthusiastic house that welcomed John Scofield to Buffalo Thursday night, and he seemed to revel in it, continually mentioning how much he liked playing here and basking in the adulation.
Accompanied by the trio of Avi Bortnick on rhythm guitar, Adam Dietch on drums and Jesse Murphy on bass, Scofield played "Jeep on 35" from the "A Go Go" album and "Chichon" from last year's release, "Bump," plus a few other older tunes, but nothing from his most recent release, "Works for Me."
"Works for Me" has more of a traditional, bop-oriented lineup of personnel, featuring guitar, piano, standup bass, and drums. The group Scofield brought with him to the Tralf was more in line with the electronic groove he was working in on "Bump." For that album he experimented with sampled sounds to a greater extent than he had ever done before, utilizing the talents of Mark De Gli Antoni, who used to ply his talents with samplers for the now-defunct avant rock group Soul Coughing.
Thursday night it was Bortnick (who was recommended to Scofield by fellow guitar experimenter Charlie Hunter) who orchestrated the bulk of audio oddities via a variety of switches and knobs mounted on a chest-high "table" which was, in turn, connected through a series of cables to foot pedals triggered by either Scofield, Dietch or Bortnick. The array of sounds produced included a number of percussive noises, washes of electronica, and, toward the end of the evening, the distinctive tones of sitar and sarod, which added an exotic touch to the goings on.
Scofield also introduced what seemed to be a plethora of new tunes with at least one "world premiere" -- "Boom Boom." It was intriguing to be present at the birth of a funky new work, as the quartet stopped and started until they got the sound just right.
There were other new items on the agenda, too. Scofield said he was thinking of calling one song "Offspring" because he wrote in his notebook "First day of Spring" to remind him of its genesis. "Polo Towers" was the designated moniker for a song written in Las Vegas, "the anti-jazz capital of the world," while "Uber John," a lengthy tune written on the group's German tour, included Scofield tossing in snippets of "Blue Moon" for good measure.
As for the sidemen, let it be said that the boss certainly knows how to pick 'em. Dietch is a monster technician but one who comes from the soul/funk side of the equation instead of the purely jazz side. Murphy's bass lines were succinct, and it really wasn't apparent how much talent he had until he was given solo space. That made it apparent why he was chosen to anchor the bottom end of the groove. Bortnick is quite an inventive rhythm guitarist, something you don't usually hear said about that supporting role, adding chordal flurries that perfectly set up Scofield's riffing throughout the evening. The same was true for all of Bortnick's sampler manipulations.