John Scofield And Pat Metheny: I Can See Your House From Here—A Tone Poet "Outlier"

I Can See Your House From Here, originally released in 1994, is an outlier in the Tone Poet series, the bulk of which are past Blue Note titles, that for whatever reason or reasons, the label originally shelved only to release years later in limited production, and/or titles not released by other jazz audiophile outfits like Analogue Productions, Music Matters and Classic Records. The series also includes titles on Pacific Jazz, Solid State and a few other labels now under the Blue Note umbrella.

Upon first listen, imagine being transported into a realm that is worlds apart from Blue Note greats like Grant Green or Kenny Burrell, but strangely enough, the Blue Note lineage remains clearly evident. The 11 tracks, all originals, run the gamut from absolute barn-burners, acoustic ballads, a tune that could be best described as light salsa, to a blues track, some synth and distortion-laden laid-back funk, two bouncy, sailor-esque jaunts, and a few tracks that could creatively be described as “post-modern bop-ish”.

The album is an absolute kaleidoscope of color, character, and consistency, delivering excellent track to track sequencing and effective flow. The session incorporates some wonderful palette-cleansers that help the listening experience simmer down between some of the more fiery tracks. This results in an effective balance between electric distortion and “synthiness” and good ole’ classical nylon and steel string technique.

The set concludes appropriately with the Blues chart “You Speak My Language”, but it leaves this listener begging for at least one more Blues tune here, as Scofield and Metheny absolutely rip it and turn the Blues inside-out.

The Scofield penned songs make for a slightly more musically compelling listening experience, as they hit a little closer to home and are more traditional than are Metheny’s that at times start to sound a bit too similar to one another.

The drums are particularly well-recorded and presented, demonstrating some clear sonic advantages of 90’s digital recording and mixing techniques, with multiple microphones helping to create a wide well-balanced presentation across the whole width of the soundstage. Bill Stewart’s technique is on full display, treating listeners to pinpoint drum kit placement left to right and more importantly, audiophile-demo quality sound, including precise stick work transients and full-bodied spectral balance that takes the listener inside the body of the bass drum and toms.

The slower, quieter tracks effectively highlight Stewart’s sound, with the light brush and mallet work evoking a profusion of tonal colors, transient shimmer, and floating brassy featheriness. Steve Swallow plays a mostly supportive role on this session, with his excellent technique and use of chromatic shadings creating melodic lines well-conveyed in the new mastering, which exhibits absolute tautness and zero bloat as well as clearly conveying Scofield’s edginess and “bite” versus Metheny’s more open, pillowy, atmospheric tone.

Some of the best sonic moments are in the slower songs, especially the Metheny track “Message to my Friend” in which the two display a more classically oriented approach that combines Scofield’s steel with Metheny’s nylon strings. The mix features Scofield on the left, Metheny (mostly) on the right (sometimes center), with precise, absolutely clean stereo separation.

The mastering and pressing are beyond reproach, and in my experience are easily among the best within the whole series—especially factoring in how much improved this version is compared to the original CD. Despite its higher price tag, its more modern approach to jazz, as well as the stigma that surrounds vinyl sourced from digital (in this case, 24/88.2), it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that when this series runs its course (not anytime soon!) this could be at the top of the series’ many sonic gems. Add a gorgeous Stoughton gatefold jacket, and a flawless RTI pressing and you have a wonderful reissue that’s a fresh, modern, sonic-thrill ride outside the familiar 50’s and 60’s jazz vault. well worth exploring.

Ryan Clarin Describes His introduction to the Tone Poet Blue Note Jazz Reissue Series

My foray into the vinyl jazz reissue scene started with the Music Matters series induced by watching a Youtube video that featured a fresh face unboxing his first Music Matters title, and seeing his absolute glee and excitement. I ordered Art Blakey’s Mosaic and Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame hoping to have a similar experience. I laughed out loud immediately upon hearing the intro horn blasts on Mosaic played on my Technics 1200GR and Lyra Delos combo feeding a Pass Labs Aleph Ono. The sound was so ridiculously good I knew my addiction had begun.

I was more than 100 Music Matters heavy into my collection, when Blue Note announced that Joe Harley would be curating a special Blue Note series. I knew I would be all-in on whatever Joe would release, buying blind/sight-unseen virtually everything as soon as it was released. Starting with those first two titles - Wayne Shorter’s Etcetera and Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs - and through having recently received the latest run - Lee Morgan’s The Rajah, Paul Chambers Bass on Top, and John Scofield and Pat Metheny’s I Can See Your House from Here - enjoying the series has been a total pleasure as has seeing it grow, mature, and become more adventurous. I’m about 37 tone poets in. Here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Cassandra Wilson - Glamoured
Joe Henderson - Live at the Village Vanguard (both volumes)
Andrew Hill - Black Fire
John Scofield and Pat Metheny - I Can See Your House From Here

The choices include two vocal albums, a live ‘80s concert, a 1963 post-bop debut from one of Blue Note’s greatest pianists, and a 90’s double LP featuring two heavy hitters of the modern Jazz guitar scene reviewed here. I should also add that while the Tone Poet series has featured a lot of marketing extolling the virtues of an all-analog mastering chain from tape to disc, I consider the titles cut from hi-res digital like the one reviewed above to be some of the series’ best.

(Do not judge the sound of the specially mastered double LP by the streams. They are here only for the musical acquaintance!)

Ryan Clarin is a Chicago, IL based public school music and chorus teacher, and enjoys life and music with his family, as well as a bernedoodle named Olive which they’ve affectionately nicknamed our “Jazz Dog”. He spends his time drinking bourbon and spinning jazz vinyl non-stop (not necessarily in that order), much to the chagrin of his wife and two kids.

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Glotz's picture

I NEED to go back to the record store tonight to pick it up!

And, I was thinking then if there was someone that has heard them all and could make SQ-only reviews capsule that would rank them from 10,9,8,7, etc. I know it might be presumptuous or a silly request.

It is clear all of them are important jazz LP's, musically.

Glotz's picture

I assume your rankings are sound and music aggregate.

Ryan Clarin's picture

yup! I would stress that those five for me are based mostly on my personal taste, and if you follow the forums and online discussion at all on the Tone Poets, you'll see if you ask 10 people for their top 5, you'll get very different lists than mine!

Jeffrey Lee's picture

Genres aren’t capitalized. Enjoyed the review, though.

AnalogJ's picture

I'm a huge fan of Metheny, but not so familiar with this album. This is certainly not Metheny lite.

It sounds great, indeed.

My one gripe IS with the album jacket. Specifically the inside of the gatefold.

Metheny did his own artistic rendition of potential cover art. It's included on the inside of the gatefold, but it's a mediocre quality scan, rendering the image with low resolution and lots of visible pixels. Why let a low rez image into the equation when the intention of the project is to produce a reissue of very high quality? You might forgive this if it were a part of the Classic reissue series, but a 2LP set in that series often costs about $28. The Metheny-Scofield album is in the low-to-mid-$40s.

I don't know if Metheny supplied the low-rez scan or it was done that way when this gatefold was designed, but it's a bit jarring in contrast to the otherwise great quality.

Michael Fremer's picture
That's what they had to work with so that's what they used....
AnalogJ's picture
AnalogJ's picture

I was just surprised to see that level of graphic released in a series that ordinarily takes their graphics to such a high level. I might merely shrug my shoulders if this were a BN80. But it'd be like going to the Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston to see a DaVinci exhibition to notice a low-rez Xerox of the Mona Lisa sandwiched in-between all of the other actual original paintings. The exhibition still might be stunning overall, but that one Xerox might feel a bit out of place.

avanti1960's picture

artists that I began following since the late 70's who's music is better than ever. Neither artist has hit a slump since then.
Remarkable achievements......

ejnwow's picture

Has anyone noticed that the channels are reversed on this 2-LP set? I have the original CD from 1994 as a reference. Scofield and Metheny are in the opposite channels from what the notes inside the gatefold mention. That said, tracks like "Say the Brother's Name" is sublime.