American Waltz (Ziggle Zaggle Music)
Composed by Josh Rosen.
Recorded: Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
I've been operating under the assumption that Bill Frisell was the head of the Jazz/Americana Intersection Association. While that idea still might hold sway, I was also fairly sure that Bill was the only person present at the meetings. Just imagine a guy sitting there in a metal folding chair, electric guitar plugged into a huge rack of effects. He starts out playing a slow, mournful take on "Goodnight Irene," which is slowly dissected and turned inside out, becoming something that Albert Ayler might have done if he'd traded his horn for a guitar and a pile of silicon.
Well, if this illusion holds, then 3Play+ have been hanging out in the coat closet during those meetings, too shy to come out and say "Hello." One thing is certain, they have been listening.
"Bulletrain" does not start from the obvious and play tricks with it. Instead, abstractions float around looking for cohesion: a guitar scrape here, a cymbal wash there, a horn poot above, a bass blurt below (I hate that I just typed that). This collection of random ambience does indeed pull in, slowly drawing the moans together into a kind of avant meditation. About a third of the way in, momentum begins to build and fragments of sound — piano, bowed bass, guitar, trumpet — fly off in all directions. Grenadier is flitting around madly as Goodrick comps under him.
With about nine minutes to go (we're talking over 20 minutes in total here), something amazing happens. The formerly "out there" piece of music transforms itself into a slinky and dirgy little blues. You might think that this would feel awkward but my ears disagree. There's just enough tension in the blues to make it seem like a musical commentary on the first half of the piece. Mick Goodrick's guitar begins the re-transformation process with about two minutes to go, and just when you think the blues is going to head back to splatteration, the intensity dials back, leaving just the right amount of unresolved tension.
I wonder if Bill knows those guys are in his closet?
Reviewer: Mark Saleski