Bill Frisell: Throughout

Bill Frisell embarked on a freelancing career in the late 1970s that found him performing in Boston, New York, and Belgium, the last of which he moved to briefly in 1978. While gigging throughout Europe, Frisell met ECM founder/producer Manfred Eicher, who, impressed by the young guitarist, invited him to become an unofficial “house guitarist” for the label in the late 1970s, appearing on such releases as Eberhard Weber’s Fluid Rustle and Later That Evening, Arild Andersen’s A Molde Concert, Paul Motian’s Psalm, and Jan Garbarek’s Paths, Prints. With these experiences in hand, Eicher invited Frisell to record as a leader for the ECM label in August of 1982, which resulted in the guitarist’s debut recording, In Line.

A lot can be learned of Frisell’s method and style from these initial recordings. To begin with, with the exception of bassist Arild Andersen’s accompaniment on five of the nine tracks, In Line is a solo performance, or, more accurately, multiple layers of Frisell’s guitar. On the bass-less “Throughout,” the guitarist sets a high precedent for his career-long concentration on mood and texture, achieved here with his combination of minimalist acoustic and electric guitars, the use of volume, delay and chorus pedals and his dichotomous presentation of the sheer beauty and simplicity of a folk-song melody and the presence of mysteriously dissonant intervals and tone clusters.

Even when playing along with himself, there’s a palpable playfulness and sense of spontaneity here – the joy of sailing into uncharted waters with the tapes rolling – that’s also a dependable feature of the Frisell experience.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Joe Pass: Darn That Dream

This track, from Pass's memorable 1975 concert with Oscar Peterson at Salle Pleyel, features the guitarist in a solo setting. But after an evening of duets (that might be a typo—"duels" would be just as appropriate), Pass was still charged with adrenalin, and makes the most of his ballad feature. Here are all the Pass trademarks: convoluted passing chords; unexpected modulations through the circle of fifths that threaten to pull us out of the tonal center; basslines that seem to require a second guitarist hidden in the wings; crisp, super-fast single-note lines; hints of funk and bop and soul and plain old-fashioned romanticism. And through it all, that imperturbable Pass confidence, as if the six strings were hardwired into his central nervous system. The 1970s were a great era for Joe Pass, and here in the middle of the decade he delivers a magisterial performance in Paris.

October 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Larry Coryell: Love Is Here To Stay

Larry Coryell's chops seem more indebted to residencies in posh jazz clubs than to either Tin Pan Alley or Shubert Alley, but Gershwin would be proud of this performance. The song is instantly familiar, yet this entertaining solo version stacks up against more established renditions by artists including Ella Fitzgerald. Featuring some of his most reverent playing on disc, the track's conscious conservatism is not a letdown. Ultimately, its success is in its fresh approach to music basic to the jazz lexicon. The melody remains unchanged, his embellishments are perfect, and it benefits from a high level of technical proficiency and excellence.

October 07, 2008 · 0 comments


Jack Broad: Current

The number of young jazz guitarists directly influenced by either Charlie Christian or Wes Montgomery is dwindling. Nowadays, the main guitar influences are Metheny, Scofield, Frisell, Abercrombie, and Rosenwinkel. Jack Broad describes the music on his Current CD as "guitar-oriented, electronic, modern jazz/fusion." The recording is self-produced, to say the least, with "all songs composed, programmed, performed, recorded and mixed by Jack Broad." He did not, however, do the mastering or take the photos. Despite that, this impressive debut will be much appreciated by lovers of contemporary jazz guitar, in all its many guises.

"Current" contains a Metheny-like circular theme and an assertive Broad solo that most recalls Rosenwinkel in terms of structure, ideas, clean lines and ringing tone. Broad's sure technique extends beyond his proficient guitar playing. The seamless electronic keyboard, bass and drum tracks that he programmed and mixed are very engaging and complement his guitar work perfectly. Ethereal voices are effectively layered in at times as well. Elsewhere on the CD, Broad shows that he can rock out with the best of them and create more dissonant, highly provocative soundscapes, but on this title track he gives us an overview of his basic stylistic foundations, from which the possibilities are endless.

September 29, 2008 · 3 comments


Philip Catherine: Lendas Brasileiras

For his second solo recording in years, Philip Catherine has chosen to play most tunes with two guitars, using the rerecording technique. On this one, a Brazilian song played on acoustic guitars, he displays an impressive technique in both rhythmic and solo aspects. But, as always with Catherine, virtuosity is not the main goal. On the one hand he has nothing to prove and is long past the stage of technical feats for the sake of showing off. On the other hand, he is mainly a lyrical musician; the sound he produces on his guitars clearly demonstrates his concern about melody. Few musicians can make a guitar "sing" as Philip Catherine does. Even on a tune from Brazil, there are moments when you can obviously trace the singing quality of his fingerings and touch to his main models: Django Reinhardt and René Thomas, whose influence Catherine has absorbed to develop his own style.

July 31, 2008 · 0 comments


Joe Pass: Have You Met Miss Jones?

Joe Pass's Virtuoso LP on Norman Granz's Pablo label shook up a lot of guitarists when it was first released, and catapulted Pass from obscurity to the top ranks of jazz artists. Soon Pass was recording with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, among others, and following up with several more solo guitar releases under the Virtuoso imprimatur. Pass lived up to the big claims of the title - he was a true virtuoso of the six strings. The speed and clarity of his single-note lines was unsurpassed among jazz guitarists of his day, but one can also enjoy his performances for their harmonic ingenuity or their sheer unbridled swing. On "Have You Met Miss Jones?" Pass is all over the fretboard, spinning out basslines, rapid-fire licks, passing chords, moving from relaxed rubato to hard-driving swing rhythms, dancing through the "Giant Steps" changes in the bridge. And every note sings clear, every phrase conveys a confident sense of mastery. Pass is now gone, and only the recording remains. But a generation after this album's debut, it still captivates and impresses.

November 23, 2007 · 0 comments


Joe Pass: They Can't Take That Away From Me

Even the finest jazz guitarists rarely record live and unaccompanied. First, standing alone on a nightclub stage—especially in Hollywood, where the audience is bound to include other guitarists, possibly topflight pros—is intimidating. Second, even if you've been assured all fellow guitarists will be barred at the door by brawny bouncers, flying solo demands serious chops. So, you ask, did Joe pass the test? You gotta be kidding! With consummate ease, the man swings everything: chords, basslines and single-note runs, all carrying the clarity, confidence and conviction of an undisputed master. Call off the bouncers. Artist at work.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments


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