Bill Frisell: History, Mystery

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bill Frisell
LABELS: Nonesuch
ALBUM TITLE: Bill Frisell
WORKS: History, Mystery
PERFORMER: Bill Frisell (guitar), Eyvind Kang (viola), Ron Miles (cornet), Hank Roberts (cello), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Tony Scherr (bass), Greg Tardy (saxophone), Kenny Wollesen (drums)


Bill Frisell’s faux-tentative guitar style is arguably an unlikely enabler to a career which has ricocheted back and forth between modern jazz, avant-rock, postmodern bluegrass and the kind of pleasantly lopsided chamber fusion which predominates here. Then again, the inherent compatibility of his playing could be exactly the reason why he has been able to function in so many contexts. This nonetheless unusual example comprises no fewer than 30 brief pieces drawn from earlier collaborations and commissions and segued together into a suite for this recording, performed by the guitarist with an empathetic grouping of strings, winds and drum kit. The music manages to incorporate parlour waltzes, oddly furtive country and blues elements and subtly deployed jazz conventions into a likeable musical distillation. It plods a bit in places, but both the performance and the lucid, warm recorded sound are excellent. Roger Thomas