The Way out Is Via the Door blends studio work from May 1999 with live performances recorded in March 2000. Billed to Courage (saxophonist John Mills, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Chris Massey) with Robert Creeley, it actually represents a follow-up to Creeley's CD Have We Told You All You'd Thought to Know?, released by Cuneiform in 2001. This time around the music takes a more written-down form, although it retains a certain smooth, jamming feel that suits the "spoken word with accompaniment" format well. Creeley's poems have moved one step back from the music's focus. They become one element of the composition, not the structural pillar they were in the previous disc. This change justifies the difference between the headlining Courage plus Creeley instead of Creeley plus musicians. The music takes the form of dreamy, soft jazz influenced by the ECM sound, especially when Mills puts the saxophone down to play sweeping keyboard chords. Some tracks have no recitation in them; others feature Creeley's words only briefly. The concluding reading of Frank Loesser's "Inchworm" gives a good idea of this album's intentions. One misses David Torn's guitar, which provided most of the grit and disquieting atmospheres on the previous album, but if you enjoyed Have We Told You (and even more if you found it too experimental), you should find something to like in The Way out Is Via the Door.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture