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

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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.

Discography
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)