"Just when everyone thought that he was going to make nothing but solid straight bop records from now on, John Scofield changes the rules of his game again in `92. For "Grace Under Pressure", Sco switches gears a bit, providing hints of what was to come in later records, yet still manages to treat us with some excellent playing and songwriting.In a gutsy move, JS replaces the tenor chair held by Joe Lovano with country/jazz/rock/you-name-it guitarist Bill Frisell. Even though Frisell does not share the top billing with his host, he makes for an intriguing matchup. Frisell walks well the fine line between fitting in Scofield's musical world and speaking in his own distinctive voice. In the title song, he matches Sco's fine improvising with some equally creative fretwork himself. In fact, all of Bill's solos are highlights, because he always takes unusual approaches to them; it's very refreshing to listen to them.Master bassist Charlie Haden returns with his usual outstanding fare, holding together the free jazz track "Scenes From A Marriage" all by himself. And where does Sco finds all these phenomenal drummers? Joey Baron reminds one heavily of Bill Stewart.A horn section is introduced for the first time on a Scofield record, but it is used more to provide touches here and there, in a very effective manner. "Chariots" from "Meant To Be" is reworked into the funky tune "Twang". The soulfull ballads "Honest I Do", "Pat Me" and the closing "Unique New York" are among his finest. "Bill Me" is a strong slow blues coupled with a rock bass drum beat. Throw in the horns sparingly and a carefully-played Haden solo and the result is a stew that somehow simmers well.Not being that terribly familiar with Bill Frisell's work, it would be interesting to get a Frisell fan's take on this record. He doesn't call the shots on this record, but he couldn't help but influence it anyway. In a positive way, too, IMHO."
John and Bill Frisell. What else can I say?
David Roy | Evans, GA | 04/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fantastic John Scofield set. This was my first John Scofield purchase after having had some exposure to him by way of Jaco Pastorius' instructional bass video and John Patitucci's solo album Sketchbook.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic album. John's writing is sometimes traditional, sometimes clever -- the opening track, "You Bet," is the first song I think I would ever describe as 'fun' -- but always smart and clean and easy to follow and listen to.
I get the idea that John was thinking outside of the box on this album, owing to his having Bill Frisell (guitar), Charlie Haden (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) back him, along with a small brass section on a few of the tunes. These guys each bring their own distinctive styles to the table and the result is a smorgasbord of rich sonic textures and unabashed musical adventure.
For those familiar with John's work before or after this disc, the music may surprise you. The first three numbers are fairly straightforward and are pretty much straight ahead jazz, but gears quickly shift when we reach "Scenes From A Marriage." Once the head is stated, Charlie and Joey kick into overdrive and John just goes with the flow and keeps right up with them even though he probably has no idea where they may be going. John wraps up his solo and Bill takes the cake by beautifully playing a variation on the main theme while Charlie and Joey switch to a more free jazz backing.
Then Bill stomps on the gas and switches to his distorted sound and provides his own loops in the background. He gets crazy with the theme and then brings it back down a notch by providing an ethereal ambience while John restates the head. Charlie and Joey then break off to do some free jazz and then the whole gang comes back in to wrap the tune up.
"Twang" is a blues-inflected swinger and "Pat Me" -- a nod to Pat Metheny -- gives Bill the chance to showcase his acoustic skills. "Pretty Out" is musical mayhem waiting to happen and Bill certainly doesn't disappoint on this tune, either. This song, however, may wear on some people and even John has a hard time getting the rest of the guys back on the same sheet to restate the head. They finally do it and Bill's ending loop -- which fades out to end the track -- is picture perfect and is wonderfully accentuated by Charlie's unchractersically laid-back bass with John's overchorused chords floating above them both. The mental picture I get just from the sound of it is like picking up a far-away radio broadcast with an old transistor radio.
Up next is "Bill Me" and gives Bill some room to stretch out. After that is "Same Axe." It's a short tune built around a typically Scofield A-A-B-A riff and both guitarists solo simultaneously before restating the head and ending the tune. "Unique New York" is the quietest tune of the bunch -- and the only one with a tongue-twister as a title -- and as the closing song on the album, it's definitely in sharp contrast to most of the rest of the tunes in this set, kind of like a sonic sorbet to cleanse the palate.
All in all, I think this a classic disc. While John almost seems to be overshadowed by the likes of Bill and Charlie at times, with their preponderance for running out into left field, he manages to rein them in when needed and is actually pushed by their musical experimentation to try some new and different stuff himself.
A must-have for either the serious Scofield fan or the serious Frisell fan."
Sco and Frisell lay down some pretty solid tunes
Micah Newman | Fort Worth, TX United States | 11/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of John Scofield's more-memorable early-90s Blue Note albums, partnering with the equally identifiable and unique guitarist Bill Frisell. Frisell also brings with him Joey Baron on drums, who is a lot looser than Sco's usual Bill Stewart. Stewart's awesome, but Joey Baron's a nice change; he brings a lot to the proceedings here. Charlie Haden, as on _Time On My Hands_, rounds out the quartet on bass. He's extremely competent, but his recent playing like this sounds so studied and exact compared with his work with Ornette Coleman way back when.I actually kinda miss Joe Lovano on this one.Boy, when John Scofield writes a great tune, it's truly terrific. "You Bet" and "Honest I Do" are among the standouts here tunewise. Some songs sound as if they were written particularly with Bill Frisell in mind, as in "Twang". The horn arrangements rounding out the harmonies do well to complement Bill's playing, too. At times, Bill sounds like he's doing a pretty fair imitation of Scofield. "Pat Me" seems to invoke the spirit of the inimitable Pat Metheny, and actually anticipates Scofield's collaboration with him two years later on the masterful "I Can See Your House From Here." Definitely pick this one up if you like either Scofield or Frisell."
John Scofield, Super Genius
Alec B. Julien | Burlington, VT USA | 03/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm surprised that there are only a handful of reviews here. In my opinion, Scofield's CDs of the early 90s will someday be considered jazz classics. ("Time on My Hands", "Meant to Be", "What We Do", and this one.) The writing is top-notch, original, and quite often brilliant. The playing is inspired, cohesive, and virtuosic. The line-ups are amazing. On this album, Bill Frissell is just the perfect complement to Scofield's playing -- smooth to Sco's angular. His solo on "You Bet" is one of those rare pieces of improvisation that sounds truly composed. Charlie Haden is, well, Charlie Haden. Superb. Joey Baron, on drums, is a great choice to glue together these quirky tunes and musicians -- he's a very, very interesting (and excellent) player. Scofield is, as usual, totally in the pocket. The tunes here are, to be honest, not overall my favorite of Scofield's. "You Bet" is brilliant; "Bill Me" as well. Sco's foray into horn arrangements is a nice touch, but strikes me as experimental here, and overlayed rather than integral. (A bit tenuous, too, come to think of it.) I think he's at his best when he's more minimal in his arrangements.If you're not familiar with Scofield's work of the early 90s, check out "Time on My Hands", and if you like that, definitely give this album a spin."
One of his best!
Alec B. Julien | 07/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since there were two reviews here and they were polar opposites, I thought I would add something. First of all, this is not "the guitar solo that never ends" and there is a bass solo or two on this CD. There are so many magical moments on this album. There is a telepathy between Scofield and Frisell and they compliment each other beautifully. I think 'Honest I Do' and 'Scenes From A Marriage' are two instances where this happens.This is highly recommended."