JJ 01/93: John Scofield – Grace Under Pressure

Thirty years ago, Mark Gilbert found that a faintly rustic charm had replaced the urban crunch of the guitarist's 80s work. First published in Jazz Journal January 1993


The substitution of another guitar for Joe Lovano’s reeds and flute brings a welcome novelty to Scofield’s modern jazz ensemble. It was to have been Pat Metheny, but timetabling problems meant that Bill Frisell filled the gap.

Sty­listically, it’s much the mixture heard on the last few post-fusion Scofield albums – a loosely tex­tured agglomeration of bop, blues, ballads, samba, free and country styles. Scofield’s lines change little – he still favours the measured, blues-based style he has returned to in recent years – but Frisell, when he isn’t guying a pedal steel or playing the familiar role of court jester, subverting jazz orthodoxy with rock whines and bends, offers a glimpse of his bebop skills. Thanks solely to the variety in his playing he is prob­ably the most interesting soloist here.

There are a number of attractive Scofield ballads – latterly his strongest suit – with some effec­tive horn cushions from a top drawer New York session team.

As usual, the music has a quaint, faintly rustic charm which contrasts sharply with Scofield’s tough, urban-inspired style of pre­vious years. It’s not as exciting as that was, but Frisell’s inclusion creates a brief frisson.

You Bet; Grace Under Pressure; Honest I Do; Scenes From A Mar­riage; Twang; Pat Me; Pretty Out; Bill Me; Same Axe; Unique New York (62.45)
Scofield (elg); Bill Frisell (g/elg); Charlie Haden (b); Joey Baron (d); Randy Brecker (flh); John Clark (Frh); Jim Pugh (tb). NYC, December, 1991.
(Blue Note CDP 7 98167 2)