EnRoute may be one of the most remarkable recordings John Scofield has made during a redoubtable career that includes a stint with Miles Davis, a tenure with Billy Cobham, and projects with the likes of Pat Metheny and Medeski Martin & Wood. The level of inspiration on this live set recorded last December at the Blue Note in New York is usually the result of constant roadwork on the part of players who have been together for years at a time. While Scofield has played before with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, their tour last fall was the first collaboration among them in a number of years.
And though Scofield is the most prominent name here, the music is the real star because all three members of the trioincluding bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewartcontribute equally. Any one of the three could've taken marquee billing on this CD as the music teems with ideas coming from all directions right from the start on "Wee. Throughout the disc, you hear an almost telepathic communication between these musicians that allows them to pickup ideas from each other and expand upon them with their respective instruments. To that end, this music, as on "Bag, is just about as pure as jazz can get without going completely free-form. Yet the threesome are wise enough to work with just enough structure to allow them touchstones to work from: hear the patience with which they explore "Alfie, reaffirming the axiom that the ballad is in fact the truest test of the musician's mettle.
It's laudable John Scofield never goes too long in the jamband scene without returning to the traditional forms. No question he's raised his profile by playing to younger audiences in recent years, but, even adapting his approach, he has never sounded trendy, in part because his unique combination of fluid jazz guitar attack married to the angular blues texture of his sound, is just as effective in either genre. For EnRoute , Scofield's sound becomes all the more sinuous, as it's totally free of effectswhich in turn reflects the purity of his playing and his love of collaboration. And this dynamic translates directly into his partnership with Swallow and Stewart, because there's a spontaneous sense of joy about their interactions here that is absolutely sublimethis is whey they call it playing music. No worries about a wrong note with these guys and accordingly, not a wrong note to be heard. (Notwithstanding the beauty of editing your performance, of course!)
It's a further tribute to the humility of these three artists that the music takes precedence over billing. In the end, it is the music that triumphs, with the musicians as a means to that end, a process they seem eminently willing to embrace.
Personnel: John Scofield: electric guitar; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Bill Stewart: drums.