John Scofield has turned the corner from journeyman jazz guitarist to become one of the most inventive and witty players on the contemporary scene. This date, his first for the Blue Note label, builds on a discography following several recordings for the Gramavision label, and also progresses this contemporary jazz music into an individualism that can only bode well for his future efforts. Teamed with the rising-star saxophonist Joe Lovano and the bulletproof rhythm team of bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Scofield is emerging as a player of distinction on the electric guitar, and a composer whose mirthful ideas add spark and vigor to his newfound musical setting. In this co-production with Peter Erskine, Sco has found his melodic stride in making music that is bright and clever without being overly intellectual, retaining a soulful quality enriched by the deep-rooted, bluesy tenor sax of Lovano. What is most refreshing is that this music has broken free of clichés from the earlier original fusion movement, and what Scofield might have accomplished prior. "Farmacology" is an excellent example of this, more in the hard bop vein and echoing both ringing country twang and the unique voicings of Ornette Coleman. There's rambling neo-bop and good-time fun in the unison of guitar and tenor sax during "Wabash III," a lighter, elegant, but free and melodic tone in 6/8 time for "Flower Power," and squeaky clean, sweet, easygoing swing demonstrated on "Since You Asked." Haden and DeJohnette are so well matched as a rhythm team that it's easy to take them for granted, while hard to ignore their brilliance. They load up on New Orleans-style blues while Scofield doles out amusing and fractured lines for "So Sue Me," collectively move to a sleek and sneaky stance on "Let's Say We Did," and rip up a driven, forceful neo-bop for the linear melody of the witty "Stranger to the Light." Even though it's a first-time issue on CD, there are three bonus tracks, including the soul song shuffle "Time and Tide," a free, loose association that identifies "Be Hear Now," and the big-time, rock & roll-flavored, squawky "Fat Lip." It's hard to fathom this being anything other than a sustainable new direction for Scofield's music, one that he can enhance as bandmembers come and go in the not too distant future.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos