June 2008
By J. Hunter

Collaboration seems to suit Bill Frisell.... Although Floratone is more of a studio creation than I might like‚ the end result is just too much fun to dismiss on technicalities.

Floratone came out of a 2005 jam session between Frisell and expolsive, ever-versatile drummer Matt Chamberlain. Frisell responds to Chamberlain's over-stimulus with a nasty‚ unfiltered buzz saw sound that kicks you in the ass and says‚ "That…was an attention-getter!"

After the session‚ Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend‚ got out the digital chisel and sculpted the raw tracks into an 11-song set that suggests a Frankenstein-like melding of Wes Montgomery‚ Robert Johnson and the White Stripes. The producers brought in bassist Viktor Krauss - another cohort of Frisell's-to anchor the tunes‚ while texture and scope were added with carefully placed contributions from cornetist Ron Miles and violist Eyvind Kang.

A lot of Floratone is atmospheric‚ but there's lightning in the atmosphere.
Your attention stays riveted through "The Wanderer‚" which is a good walk spoiled by encroaching memory. "Mississippi Rising" lays down a chugging swamp groove that rolls over you like a runaway freight train. The funk-jazz "Swamped" and the looped-out "Louisiana Lowboat" take long‚ sweet trips on that same train. Even when things get meditative-on the loping "The Passenger" and the hypnotic "Take a Look"-the aggressive tone never really wanes.

Martine and Townsend share equal billing with Frisell and Chamberlain on the album's cover‚ showing that this matrix is bigger than the usual artist/producer relationship. Of all Frisell's collaborations‚ Floratone may be his most productive. And a productive Bill Frisell is a very good thing.