Edinburgh Jazz Festival

John Scofield Uberjam Band/Mike Stern & Randy Brecker Group

Festival Theatre

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Rob Adams


The masters lived up to their reputations in this fascinating and contrasting double bill that featured two of the great guitarists of the past thirty-plus years in groups that matched, supported and nurtured their virtuosity.

John Scofield and Mike Stern are linked by having played with Miles Davis, in the same edition of the trumpeter’s band, but even before that they had established their own, very distinctive voices, a term that grew in significance as the concert wore on.

In a group that set a determinedly relaxed pace Scofield pared his playing to the essence, crafting solos that were every bit as concerned with tonal exactness and variety as they were with perfection in note choices. Responding to the textures of rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick’s licks, flicks and samples, bassist Andy Hess’s warm grooving and drummer Dennis Chambers’ wonderfully understated expertise, this was to all intents and purposes blues singing of the highest order with a sunny side on the Caribbean-flavoured Dub Dub. Clearly defined, highly refined music with a sharp, spontaneous edge.

There was an invigorating, exciting air of spontaneity also in Mike Stern’s quartet with his old friend,  trumpeter Randy Brecker, a genuine feeling of ‘here are the blueprints, let’s see what we can build with them this time’ that resulted in extraordinarily fluent, cogent improvising all round and marvellous musical power surges from drummer Lenny White. Brecker’s The Dip Shit combined 1960s Blue Note form with current fire and vigour and Stern’s turns at the vocal mic produced a Brazilian flavoured etude and a rollicking road house jam on Jimi Hendrix’s Red House.