Intellectual appeal is again the impetus behind the music of guitarist John Scofield, driving his new Verve disc “Uberjam” as well as his concert program that’s long on electronics, samples and curious noise made musical by his cohorts. It’s a shift from his soul-funk run of the mid-’90s that exposed him to a younger, rock-oriented crowd, yet the new material taps into his forward-thinking work of the 1980s and early ’90s.
For this tour, Scofield is accompanied by the rhythm guitar of Avi Bortnick, Jesse Murphy’s bass and keyboard-generated samples and Adam Deitch on drums. They are young, seemingly half of Scofield’s 50 years, and they bring with them little jazz baggage and a consistent playful charm. The urgent nature of Murphy’s bass playing gives the act a compelling urgency that counters Scofield’s twisting guitar lines, which are often drenched in reverb. Collectively, they make experimental music that’s boundary-free — it’s testimony to Scofield’s artistry that he embraces the pliability of an older funk tune such as “Booker” and allows the musicians to prove their mettle in a standard setting, then opens the door for squawks, rumbles and honks on the new “Jungle Fiction.” When Bortnick picks up the acoustic guitar, the music is far more grounded and quick-paced, a throwback to the delightful album Scofield made with Pat Metheny in 1993, “I Can See Your House From Here.”
Scofield is in the midst of 50 one-nighters that started Feb. 21 and ends April 27 in Connecticut, a tour that takes him away from jazz clubs and puts him in rock venues. Thursday’s show was his first at the House of Blues, and he appeared overwhelmed by the response and size of the audience.
Opening the show were the Radiators from New Orleans, an act that has settled into an area between Little Feat and the Neville Brothers. The band’s new self-titled disc on Rattlesby Records features a bit of a sonic update — a little too much of a Hootie & the Blowfish influence, though — but the Radiators’ live show is still a litany of funk-rockers and overblown guitar solos. The set didn’t feel particularly inspired, though it did deliver a good-time opening for the evening.