BILL FRISELL: Gone, Just Like A Train
Bill Frisell, electric & acoustic guitars
Viktor Krauss, bass;
JimKeltner, drums, percussion
Lee Townsend, prod.; Judy Clapp, eng.
Bill Frisell is a soulful jazz minimalist with a sophisticated
sense of harmony, a daring rhythmic approach, and an instantly
recognizable, personal sound--as if Carl Perkins and Duane
Eddy took on Otis Rush and Bill Evans in a bridge tournament.
Every note is carefully sculpted, imbued with a bluesy, lightly
Echoplexed halo, and elongated like taffy in a manner suggestive
of the enigmatic Peter Green. Upon occasion, Bill will transmogrify
into an 800-lb gorilla with a touch of distortion, but more
often than not this affable galoot is content to make bricks
with straw--a remarkable melodist who can transmute single
notes into sapphire tears.
For those more impressed with the meat than the motion, Frisell's
floor routine may seem simplistic. Besides, why would someone
who can play bebop be so fascinated with bells that jingle-jangle-jingle?
So while I doubt that jazzman Bill Frisell is really dead,
long live Cowboy Bill.
While Frisell's fellow improvisers have immersed themselves
in the sophisticated harmonic cycles of The Real Book, our
post-modernist Slowhand has seemingly retreated to Mel Bay's
Guitar Method, Level One. One can visualize Mel himself in
his inner sanctum, auditioning Bill's brilliant new trio recording
Gone, Just Like A Train (blue ital.) and hoisting tankard after
tankard of pale ale in praise of this most unlikely of guitar
heroes, tears rolling down his cheeks as he cries between hiccups, "G
Major, D Major, E Minor--God bless you, Bill!"
In the tradition of Nashville (blue ital.), last year's acclaimed
string-bandrecording, Frisell's remarkable new trio on Gone,
Just Like A Train (blue ital.) is a cultural whistlestop tour
of folk sources that conveys this land's epic rhythmic dynamism,
regional diversity, and backwaters of mystery and quiet wonder.
It's as if the Modern Jazz Quartet had interpolated Cream.
Together with his remarkable collaborators, bassist Viktor
Krauss and drummer Jim Keltner, Frisell successfully plumbs
a variety of simple expressive forms within the raging seas
of intellectual complexity that have traditionally defined
the domain of the modern jazzman.
For Stereophile (underline) readers, Gone, Just Like A Train
(blue ital.) is a guaranteed five-star dog-yummy for your sound
system. Frisell, producer Lee Townsend, and engineer Judy Clapp
have done a remarkable job. Few things are more revealing than
a trio recording, and each instrument here is rendered with
remarkable depth, clarity, and detail. The soundstage is immense
and airy, and the mix is notable for the manner in which each
tune achieves subtle changes in placement, presence, and perspective
while maintaining a consistent sonic viewpoint.
Every tune on Gone, Just Like A Train (blue ital.) is a lyric
jewel. For the free formalists among you, there's the extended
blowing on "Lookout for Hope," with its intimations
of six against four, as Krauss holds down the groove with heroic
restraint and a resounding bottom, and Keltner and Frisell
engage in bluesy, airborne dialog--as loose and swinging an
interpretation of the backbeat as I've ever heard.
Then there's the epic quietude and resonant splendor of "Lonesome," as
Frisell evokes a rich tapestry of southwestern imagery with
his ringing two- and three-note chords and Johnny Smith-like
touch. On "Godson Song" he plumbs the depths of silence
with steel-guitar-like swells as Keltner essays broken abstractions
of the pulse, while "Pleased to Meet You" and "Girl
Asks Boy" are all wide-eyed folkish innocence. And "Sherlock
Jr." and the title tune range freely between country and
astral before settling just south of the border.
People, get ready--if you love electric guitar, bass, drums,
and the real roots of blues, country, rockabilly, and modern
jazz, this train is bound for glory.--Chip Stern, Stereophile,
Bill Frisell: Bend That Genre!
Ever wonder what Johnny Cash's backup group the Tennessee
Two might have sounded like jamming on a tango? You might get
an idea from the title track of guitarist Bill Frisell's Gone,
Just Like a Train, an album that features the jazz deconstructionist
in a bare-bones trio setting with Nashville session man Viktor
Krauss on bass and studio rocker Jim Keltner on drums. A country
lament that ends up as a tango is just one of the record's
surprises, though maybe it's not so surprising from Frisell,
a forthright eclectic whose ventures into music other than
jazz never smack of pretension or compromise.
In one sense, Gone, Just Like a Train picks up where
last year's Nashville left off. Absent this time,
however, are the dobros and mandolins that seemed a little
superfluous anyway, given the healthy twang of Frisell's guitar.
Unlike its predecessor, the new record isn't a genre album
so much as a genre-bender. Part of what makes Frisell perhaps
the most innovative figure in jazz right now, as well as one
of the most readily identifiable, is his ability to mix and
match without being a chameleon. One of the tunes here, "Egg
Radio," is a semi-reggae; the one right before it, "Nature's
Symphony," begins with dollops of Hawaiian vibrato. Yet
even a listener unfamiliar with Frisell would have no trouble
identifying these tracks a the work of the same guitarist,
one who claims your attention immediately with his combination
of lyricism and power.
Frisell's trademark as a soloist has always been using feedback
and distortion to introspective ends. Without sacrificing his
musical identity, he plays a little more forcefully here, thanks
in part to the goading of his sidemen. A key to the album's
success is the quickness of Keltner's responses to Frisell;
the drummer's spry, broken time-keeping in "Lookout for
Hope" offers ample testimony to his jazz chops. And in
the opening "Blues for Los Angeles" and elsewhere,
the rumble of Krauss's bass puts Frisell in touch with this
inner Link Wray.
Gone, Just Like a Train is going to be filed under
jazz, and it belongs there despite its missed pedigree. But
its appeal is wider than that of most jazz records. Like all
of Bill Frisell's work, it belongs in your collection whether
your idea off a great guitarist is George Van Eps or Jimi Hendrix,
Alfred Apaka or John Fahey. Stereo Review
"Frisell has managed to pull together an ad hoc super trio
of musicians from drastically different pasts, and together they
assemble a machine of colossal proportions: part skewered jazz,
part roadside folk blues, part gritty rock...Gone presents
Frisell at a creative apex. He's integrated a thoroughly unique
understanding of so much American Music...And it's all gift-wrapped
in a lean, unimposing trio framework that conveys sheer genius
in a million directions... It flies with shining power." The