Bill Frisell: Strange Meeting

Bill Frisell’s pair of recordings from 1992, a wide-ranging collection of covers entitled Have a Little Faith and this set of original compositions, This Land, present a conscious departure away from the ECM sound that dominated Frisell’s early years and a step towards a more organic, traditionally assembled acoustic group. There’s a unavoidable emphasis on unearthing the riches of Americana on these two recordings, whether spanning the American songbook on Have a Little Faith (he covers Aaron Copland, Stephen Foster, Madonna, Sonny Rollins, Bob Dylan and John Hiatt, among others), or the compositional focus, American West artwork, and album title itself on This Land. Frisell was never bound by the strictness of a single genre, but with these two outings, he seems to dive headfirst into accepting the role of an Americana experimenter, inextricably linking jazz with country, rock, folk, and blues styles and already accomplishing what most struggle with when combining genres – forming a cohesive, identifiable personal style.

“Strange Meeting” is a dark, loping groove in C-minor that can be studied theoretically for its compositional value yet be immediately accessible to non-musicians for its immediate ease and clarity as a mood statement – an important dichotomy that hints at the growing crossover popularity of Frisell’s music. Note the tension-inducing space left by the drums, the syncopated bass-line that lands on beat one on the “B” section, and the patience required by all players to establish texture through horn layering before Frisell begins to improvise.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Bill Frisell: Lonesome

Between the release of his debut recording, In Line, and the date of this session (early ’87), Bill Frisell busily recorded with Chet Baker, Bob Moses, Tim Berne, Paul Motian, Marc Johnson, John Zorn, Paul Bley, and released his first full-band record, an ECM outing entitled Rambler that features Kenny Wheeler and Paul Motian. However, Frisell truly embarked on establishing a career as a leader with this first steady group, comprising the diversely creative lineup of cellist Hank Roberts, electric bassist Kermit Driscoll, and drummer Joey Baron. Upon first listen, one can immediately tell that Frisell had found his early musical foils here. Both the serious technical talents and collective senses of humor of his “Band” mates enhance his compositional and improvisational nuances.

“Lonesome” is an enduring Frisell composition consisting of two six-bar “A” sections, an eight-bar “B” section, and a concluding, slightly-expanded eight-bar “A” section. Frisell’s sweet folk melody, played on acoustic guitar, is peppered with metallic percussion (amidst a country-rock brushes groove) from Baron, modestly vital support from Driscoll, and some attractively discordant trills from Roberts. Frisell’s brief improvisation features some time spent exploring mood and texture, as well as a few stand-alone bop lines that remind us, amidst the multitude of sonic goings-on, that the man can play. This tune has been performed by many of Frisell’s various group throughout the years, yet few retain the charm of this original version.

September 15, 2009 · 0 comments


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