On Friday night John Scofield and the Miracle Orchestra put on a great night of music at The Paradise in Boston. Nearly on the campus of Boston University, the Paradise is a good club for the sound system, but has very little dancing room. Now featuring a front room, as well as the main venue, this club has the draw for many nationally touring acts (Robert Randolph and Ozomatli later this month). The show began a little after nine with Miracle Orchestra putting together a tight one-hour set. This four-piece ensemble played some bass heavy funk to start it off as the crowd filtered in.

Miracle Orchestra took on that room on Friday night, and played to a crowd that was loud during some of the slower, softer tunes, but excited for the music. Jared Sims made an impression early, belting out some funky stuff, and then layed down some colorful tones over Garrett Sayer’s deep bass lines. The sound was great and the band played to the strengths of the clubs acoustics by featuring some “big” tunes. Bill Carbone (check him out doing some dates with Ron Levy in the Boston area) took on the faster rhythms with the technical skill of a percussionist well beyond his years, and also went out and played some show stealing improvisations. Geoff Scott left no doubt that, while John Scofield was on deck, he was the heavy hitter while the band had the stage. His guitar spoke volumes for the bands collective musicianship, and also his skill to improvise. “Big Nasty” was a huge funk tune, and finished off their set with big results. All in All, they built up a great vibe for the next set and were never off the beat for this one (Sims said possibly “their last show off the year”).

John Scofield’s set started off with a whimper and ended with a bang. When the band filtered on stage, guitarist/synth-wizard Avi Bortnick, began an odd loop of dissonance. Then the musicians entered, picked up their respective instruments, and slowly worked on a theme that became a jam. Adam Deitch on drums was a welcome addition to the quartet, and Jesse Murphy, on bass, held the show together with a deep bass groove. Scofield came in on the jam after a few minutes, and the room applauded his every note. The high energy, launched and fostered in the great set by Miracle Orchestra, burst into the room again by means of John Scofield’s signature sound. This is, of course, the same sound that propelled him to jazz fame with Miles Davis in the early 1980’s, and with Medeski, Martin, and Wood in the late 1990’s. The tone of his guitar brought me back to so many shows, that it was hard to pay complete attention to the one going on in front of me.

The set began well and featured early solos by Avi and Scofield, and later on by Jesse Murphy and Adam Deitch. Scofield played “Boozer” off AGoGo, and later on “Jeep on 35.” Also featured were a few tunes from Works for Me and Steady Groovin’, as well as some new tunes like “The Jungle”. This piece was drum heavy and featured some “out” effects by Avi, with some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard live from Deitch. As the set ran on to the midnight hour, the tightly packed crowd danced and cheered, never waning in its excitement. For someone who appreciated Scofield for his technical ability as a musician, I feel that this show met all my expectations. In my mind, his musicianship is never in question, but occasionally he’ll get lost in a jam, and will not rely on the band to help him out. This is not a weakness, indeed his live shows are always a blast because he is willing to take those chances, and for this, he deserves the heaps of recognition of jazz/funk/rock fans.

Scofield was accessible after the gig and excepted praise politely. He shook hands with the fervor of a politician. As the crowd filtered out, a little more drunk, on music, then when they came in, all I heard was praise and excitement for the sound of John Scofield.

Jeff Bergman
JamBase Boston Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 9/10/01]

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