Two bands, one venue, and a lot of jams--what more could you ask for on a Saturday night on the Sunset Strip? Well thanks to the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) the jam band community was treated to a bonus. The House of Blues hosted a double bill consisting of veteran jazz guitarist John Scofield and his latest band, plus a return encounter from the jam filled, jazz orientated Soulive. It was a night where the two bands shined not only in their respective sets, but also when they collaborated.

John Scofield by Matt Earhart
Scofield's band opened the evening with a sizzling set. The intensity in Scofield's eyes comes out in his music. One thing that was noticeable throughout the set was the way Scofield related to the crowd. He seemed to be getting energy off the audience members dancing right in front of him. And the crowd responded accordingly, as the heads were bobbing up and down and from side to side for what seemed to be an eternity. The latest addition to the band, bassist Mark Kelley, fit right in with Scofield's upbeat rhythms and stayed faithfully on the one, adding his own chunky bass lines. Mark has replaced Andy Hess who is now with Gov't Mule. The band played several selections off Scofield's latest CD release Up All Night, including a scorching "Thikhathali." Guitarist Avi Bortnick added a new spice to the mix as he dug up samples from his iBook during several jams. Scofield later acknowledged the fact that Avi was using the latest in computer-meets-music innovation. Bortnick then busted out his Gameboy and started playing Super Mario Brothers as Scofield was explaining the equipment. It was pretty funny. They closed out their nearly hour and a half-long set with a huge jam and set the stage for the thrills to come.

Soulive with Talib Kweli by Matt Earhart
Soulive hit the stage with a completely different look this visit. When they co-headlined with Me'Shell NdegeOcello this past October, it was a set with Ivan Neville and saxophonist Sam Kininger. This time around it was just the trio on stage for the opening number. They were quickly joined by noted rapper Talib Kweli, and launched into P. Diddy's "Bad Boys for Life," which lead back into the opening jam of "Steppin." I have to be honest: I had to look that one up, as I'm not up on P. Diddy's songbook these days. Ever since he dropped J. Lo, I've held a vendetta against him. Anyway, Talib wouldn't be the only one joining the Evans boys and Eric Krasno on stage this night. About halfway through the set, the venerable John Scofield came out and delighted not only the crowd, but the band as well. "What You See" and "Hottentot," the latter a Scofield original, were played at a vigorous pace and the crowd danced at the same speed. It was truly a sight to be seen. Scofield left the stage and Soulive carried on with some deep clavinet solos during "Uncle Jr." before Mark Kelley joined them on stage for a set-ending "Tuesday Night Squad." The eye contact and interplay between the musicians was interesting to observe. When the jamming gets so complex, it sometimes becomes easy to get lost playing or even listening because there is so much going on at the same time. However, being true professionals, not only did they not "drop" any notes, but Kelley added a lot of flavor to the set closer. Finally, the encore featured a couple of the Lettuce crew; both Adam Deitch (Scofield's drummer) and bassist Erick Coomes got into the "Do It Again" encore. Not the Steely Dan version, but Soulive's funky song with the same title. Can you say Iceberg Stealth Lettuce? I know, no horns, but you get the idea.

Los Angeles gets a lot of flack for not being a "live music city." The thing is, people don't know that there is a real good scene going on here. Of course all the bright lights and big names probably give L.A. a reputation. However, not on this night. Tonight Soulive and the John Scofield Band certainly delivered, and maybe changed the way live music is perceived in SoCal.

Steve Itzkowitz
JamBase | Los Angeles
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 1/26/04]

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