Updated 1-21-13
 

 

Bill Frisell - “Sign of Life – Music for 858 Quartet”

The 858 Quartet was originally conceived a number of years ago when Frisell was commissioned to compose music inspired by the artist Gerhard Richter’s 858 series of paintings which was exhibited by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  The new recording is a result of a composing retreat that Frisell undertook last fall Vermont.  All of the material was written in the month of October and recorded in November.  This represents the shortest gestation period of any Frisell recording to date.  Produced by longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California in late 2010, “Sign of Life” features Frisell on guitar, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola and Hank Roberts on cello.

Sign of Life finds Frisell exploring chamber-group dynamics and interplay in ways that toggle between composition and improvisation, reverberating soundscapes and spiky minimalism... Owing to Fr
isell¹s familiar touch, tone and affection for roots music, a few tunes on Sign of Life should instantly appeal to his Nashville-bred following ... and the arrangements take full advantage of the ensemble¹s rich sonorities and intuitive level of play.”
-  Mike Joyce, Jazz Times

"Frisell in peak form... the band's extemporaneous arrangements deliver intricately worked variations on fiddle and guitar breakdowns and big vista American pastoralism .... The sound sparkles like springwater." - Phil Johnson, The Independent - London

Bill Frisell's Sign of Life (Savoy Jazz) is one of the most gorgeous new albums I've heard in a while. It's in the tradition of his "Americana" albums (Disfarmer; History, Mystery; Ghost Town; Gone, Just Like a Train; This Land), but here he burrows deeper into the roots. There are traces of folk, bluegrass, minimalism, western-blues, as well as certain modes and improvisational cadences of jazz. The ensemble is the 858 Quartet (Frisell on guitar; Jenny Scheinman, violin; Eyvind Kang, viola; Hank Roberts, cello), first formed (and last recorded) five years ago, to accompany a museum exhibition of Gerhard Richter's new paintings, which the German artist called the "858 series."

Frisell composed the new album—all 17 tracks—at the Vermont Studio Center, where his wife, the playful abstract painter Carole d'Inverno, was on a month-long retreat. The liner notes quote John Cage and others on the blessings of silence, of a pause from daily industry, and there is a hushed awe about Sign of Life, an expression of intense calm.  The musicians are top-notch, in fine form, and the sound—produced by Lee Townsend, engineered by Adam Munez, mastered by Greg Calbi—is stunningly vivid.  Fred Kaplan, Stereophile.

"The music is transcendent; alternately light and airy, moody and introspecitve."  - Vintage Guitar

The music on Sign of Life: Music for 858 Quartet was loosely composed by Frisell, and took shape in group rehearsals. 858's other members include violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, and cellist Hank Roberts. Recorded at Fantasy Studios in San Francisco and produced by Lee Townsend, the 17 selections on this set feel very organic. The album opens with Americana-tinged themes in the two-part "It's a Long Story" that nod to country, folk, and even Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" in its melody. "Old Times" hints at bluegrass, blues, and ragtime, but because of the complex interplay between the four players, reaches far past them into a music that is 858's own. "Friend of Mine" is another two-part tune; that said, where a pastoral theme is suggested in part one, a more mischievous one responds in the second some eight tracks later. Elsewhere, improvised classical motifs, jazz modes, and folk and other roots musics shimmer through these compositions, sometimes simultaneously and often spontaneously.... Sign of Life is a curious, quirky, and deceptively low-key affair that is musically labyrinthine and ambitious; it's full of gorgeous spaces, textures, utterly instinctive interplay, and unexpected delight.  Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

Bill Frisell rarely follows conventional musical pathways. The guitarist has released albums of Americana, world, blues and classical music—all with a jazz edge. Improvisation is at the heart of what Frisell does, magically forming loose ideas into compelling and frequently exigent listening experiences.
Sign of Life, recorded with the virtuosic 858 Quartet—violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang and cellist Hank Roberts—challenges the perceptions of a classical quartet.  Frisell’s emotive depth and textural layering push the music toward an artier realm bordering on contemporary classical, but with a spatial, earthbound feel.  Elements of Aaron Copeland mix with Marvin Gaye, Eastern rhythms collide with ‘70s-soundtrack-esque passages and even old-timey traditions make a brief appearance. It’s a diverse album that reveals new delights with each spin. - Glenn Burn Silver, Relix

Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuaria -  Lagrimas Mexicanas

A collaborative project featuring Brazilian singer-songwriter Cantuaria (vocals, percussion and guitar) with Frisell (guitars and loops) on ten co-written original compositions.  This is layered, texturally rich, rhythmically vibrant and melodically engaging music from two masters set for release in January on Entertainment One Music in North America and the Naïve label in Europe. Recorded at Avast in Seattle and Fantasy Studios in Berkeley with engineers Jason Lehning and Adam Muñoz, mixed at Fantasy with Muñoz and mastered at Sterling Sound in New York with Greg Calbi. Produced by Lee Townsend.

The guitars of Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuária melt together in my car speakers as if impossibly designed to echo the beauty in this very moment...
For those familiar with these two artists, either individually or in their previous collaborative incarnations including Frisell's own Intercontinentals or Cantuária's absorbing Horse and Fish, their high level of artistic integrity and deep level of musical simpatico is a given.  However, on Lágrimas Mexicanas their collaboration reaches a milestone with their first true duet record.  In fact, Frisell and Cantuária are the only two musicians on the entire record, credited with vocals, percussion, acoustic and electric guitars and loops.  The only outside contribution comes in the form of production from long time Frisell collaborator; Lee Townsend.

The album opens with the pulsing funk of "Mi Declaracion" before setting off on it's broader exploration of the common and uncommon ground shared by jazz, blues, americana and the music of Mexico.  The essence of the album, for me, is captured on "Calle 7" and "Lágrimas De Amor" (featuring Cantuária's beautifully distinctive vocal cadence), with the album reaching it's artistic peak on the atmospheric "Briga De Namorados".  The blink-and-you-miss-it gem of "La Curva" has a simple and almost archetypal quality, as if the melody has always been there, floating in the ether.  But the sweetest offerings of the collection are in those moments when it is simply one acoustic guitar and one electric guitar, Cantuária and Frisell "reacting to the sound of the thing" as Bill puts it, individual notes tumbling and fusing, dancing and consorting until they cease to be separate instruments or in fact instruments at all.  The sweetest offerings are in those moments, where it is simply one beautiful sound.  Hopefully this is only the first of many sonic expeditions for these two prolific and pioneering artists.  -  J. Hayes, No Depression

“With Cantuária's caressing vocals to the fore, these sublime and seemingly telepathic musicians produce delicate and intricate music which takes inspiration from, among others, Mexican ranchera, Afro-Brazilian rhythms and samba.  Sung largely in Spanish with Portuguese and English interludes, Lagrimas Mexicanas is an album of quite magnificence that gently insinuates itself on first hearing and which reveals extra layers and depths on each subsequent encounter.” - Dave Haslam, R2.

*****
Big Apple bossa, with an arty twist or two
Having made his name sprucing up bossa nova alongside New York’s avant-garde set, this isn’t the first time Brazilian ex-pat Vinicius Cantuária has taken the city’s ethnic pulse, nor indeed the first time he’s worked with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.  Lágrimas Mexicanas differs, however, in being arguably his most empathetic and subtly worked experiment to date, drawing deep on NYC’s Hispanic heritage, raking up sparks from the tenderest of melodies.  Most of the album title’s tears are cried in the course of seven-minute opener Mi Declaración, a dolorous funk requiem rooted way south of the border and which is a study in contrast, coming next to the ravishing saudade of Aquela Mulher.  Calle 7 takes an airy, bittersweet, and thoroughly contemporary turn around Brooklyn.  But it’s on the title-track that Cantuária’s swarthy intensity and Frisell’s spiky intellect really click into a higher gear: it’s brilliantly propulsive, almost martial groove is peppered with grapeshot feeback and coils of grimy reverb.

On El Camino, meanwhile, the combination of Frisell’s out-on-a-limb guitar transmissions and Cantuária’s wordless, woebegone musings raises the ghost of Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas, and harks back to Frisell’s past cinematic dabblings.  In between, the charming acoustic tracks La Curva and Cafezinho  flash glimpses of the pair’s chemistry and lend the album an uncommon equilibrium.  For this is quite possibly the most perfectly sequenced and consistently listenable set you’ll hear all year, right down to the exquisitely blurred vowels of closer Forinfas, wherein Cantuária approximates a gauche Harry Nilsson. - Brendon Griffin, Songlines (UK)

Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: “Lágrimas Mexicanas” (Entertainment One). After collaborating off and on for 25 years, this first full-length pairing of Frisell and the Brazilian singer-songwriter is a study in the jazz guitarist's ability to thrive in any genre. Frisell's Americana twang and echoing feedback mixed with twilit Bossa Nova is irresistible.  — Chris Barton, LA Times

Vinicius Cantuária is one of the leading lights of contemporary bossa nova; Bill Frisell is an experimental jazz guitarist who has collaborated with everyone from Elvis Costello to John Zorn. They’ve worked together before, but “Lágrimas Mexicanas” represents their first album-length collaboration, and it’s a quiet stunner. Frisell’s textured, atmospheric guitars and subtle electronic loops settle into the spaces between Cantuária’s gentle vocals, acoustic guitar and live percussion, giving these tracks a lush, cinematic vibe that will bewitch both traditional world music fans and lovers of global-groove artists like Thievery Corporation and David Byrne. - Metromix

Lágrimas Mexicana is a completely unique collection of songs that draws heavily from traditional Latin and Brazilian rhythms, and weds them to 21st century jazz improvisation and sonic effects in a luxuriant braid of colors, textures, styles, and languages. Having known one another for 25 years, Brazilian guitarist, songwriter, and percussionist Vinicius Cantuaria and American guitarist Bill Frisell have occasionally played on one another's albums. They have long sought the opportunity to collaborate on an album-length project. After Cantuaria moved to Brooklyn from Brazil, it presented itself. Arriving in New York, Cantuaria was deeply taken with the sheer diversity of the Spanish-speaking people and sounds he encountered on the streets, from Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and Mexicans; they drew him in, and his songwriter's instincts began to address what he'd heard. Here he plays acoustic guitar, percussion, and sings in his beautiful airy baritone. Frisell, who understood and orchestrated Cantuaria's vision, plays electric guitar and employs loops and efx that meld provocatively yet seamlessly with these songs. The various languages -- Spanish, Portuguese, and English -- concern themselves with the various manifestations of love, from spiritual to carnal to platonic. - by Thom Jurek, All Music

A 21st-Century Global Concoction
Because Vinicius Cantuaria and Bill Frisell share so many traits -- a love of jazz/indigenous folk hybrids, a taste for refinement and restraint that doesn't exclude either acoustic finger-picking or electronic technology, and a preference for delicate, sophisticated textures -- Lagrimas Mexicanas is a potently understated, multifaceted gem.   Emusic.com

Frisell's "Beautiful Dreamers" Recently Released on Savoy

    Bill Frisell recently signed with Savoy/429 Records and released “Beautiful Dreamers” —a stunning recording consisting of new original compositions and striking reinterpretations featuring Eyvind Kang (viola) and Rudy Royston (drums). Produced by Lee Townsend, engineered by Adam Muñoz at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and mastered with Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound in New York, “Beautiful Dreamers” captures the magic of one of Frisell's most personal statements in seamless and stimulating musical dialogue with his band mates Kang and Royston.

    When listening to Bill Frisell play, it’s easy to forget you’re hearing an electric guitar. Through touch, tone and voicings that are free of the usual six-string tropes, his instrument can sound, variously, like a pedal steel, a toy piano, a string quartet, a church bell, a plane in the distance, even a human voice.

    This remarkable gift continues to serve him well on his 29th solo album, whether he’s covering Stephen Foster (“Beautiful Dreamer”), Benny Goodman (“Benny’s Bugle”) or Teddy Randazzo (“Goin’ Out of My Head”), or playing his own spooky, cinematic tunes like “Baby Cry,” “Winslow Homer” and “Better Than a Machine.” The striking originality of the arrangements Frisell creates with viola player Eyvind Kang and drummer Rudy Royston can even transform ancient Tin Pan Alley fare like “Tea for Two” or “Keep on the Sunny Side” into something startlingly fresh and modern.

    Recorded at Fantasy Studios and produced by longtime collaborator Lee Townsend, this record doesn’t really sound much like jazz as much as compelling, emotionally resonant, genre-free music. Sure, it swings in places, and there’s some fiery improvisation. But after decades of trodding such a brave and singular path, maybe Frisell deserves his own genre. How about “friz”? - Bill DeMain, JazzTimes (Oct. 2010)

    "Magical!" .... Mike Hobart, Financial Times (London)

    “On Beautiful Dreamers, Frisell uses works by Stephen Foster, Blind Willie Johnson, The Carter Family and Benny Goodman, along with Burt Bacharach-style pop, as springboards for wiry, bluesy, and distinctly rocking works of his own. The two sets of compositions co-exist on Beautiful Dreamers as musical cousins. Their stylistically familial ties surface with every listen. And Beautiful Dreamers is an album you will want to revisit often..... Like so many Frisell groups, this trio unfolds its music with a sound that is light yet lush, in a manner that is purposeful but unhurried... But the highlight sits in the middle of the album with a Frisell original dedicated to the late songsmith Vic Chesnutt, titled “Better Than a Machine”. In this dreamscape recording of Americana accents, the tune beams as a blast of bright, poppish sunshine. It's indeed the moment when the already attractive Beautiful Dreamers becomes even lovelier.”  By Walter Tunis, www.kentucky.com

 
Bill Frisell Live In Montreal DVD

Released in July “Blues Dream Live ” the DVD featuring Bill Frisell’s live performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival, July 1st, 2002.   This DVD features Bill Frisell’s septet which includes Matt Chamberlain on drums, Billy Drewes on alto sax, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Greg Leisz on steel guitars and mandolin, Ron Miles on trumpet and David Piltch on bass.

 
Buster Keaton with music from Bill Frisell on DVD

For a number of years, Bill has been performing his film scores for Buster Keaton movies live to enthusiastic audiences all over the world. Out now for the first time, his music for the Keaton classics Go West, The High Sign and One Week are being released with the films on DVD by Songtone/Tone Field Productions, available exclusively here. Bill's longtime musical colleagues Kermit Driscoll (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) join Bill in enhancing not only the well known slapstick and comedic aspects of Keaton's work, but the inherent pathos and social commentary, as well. Purchase a copy here!

"Evincing his best qualities as both guitarist and composer, Frisell harvests evocative, melancholy Americana from deceptively modest, episodic themes. Coloring the scenes with acoustic as well as his trademark electric, Frisell produces strangely cinematic motifs on guitar, and his rhythm cohorts - longtime bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Joey Baron - provide abundant narrative drive." - Billboard

 

Bill Frisell "Solos" DVD now available exclusively from billfrisell.com and songtone.com

Bill's 2004 solo session from the atmospheric Berkeley Church in Toronto is now available for the first time on DVD. Beautifully shot by Director Daniel Berman, it includes such beloved original compositions as "Keep Your Eyes Open", "Throughout", "Ron Carter", "Boubacar" and "Poem For Eva" as well as songs by other composers that have long been associated with Bill's most powerful performances like "Shenandoah", "Wildwood Flower", "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry", "Masters Of War" and "My Man's Gone Now". As such, it can be viewed as a definitive Frisell solo statement.

Click here for more info.

 
Bill Frisell "Disfarmer" - What the Critics Have To Say

"Like David Lynch, post jazz guitarist Bill Frisell has a knack for insinuating an odd haze around the most wholesome aspects of Americana. Disfarmer, named after the cranky Arkansas photographer who created gripping images of his neighbors, finds Frisell teamed with steel guitarist Greg Leisz, violinist Jenny Scheinman and bassist Viktor Krauss for a set of 26 evocative miniatures. Each one flits by like a half-remembered dream, yet paradoxically their sum amounts to one of Frisell's loveliest, most consistently affecting recent creations." - Steve Smith, Time Out, New York

"The music of omnivorous guitarist Bill Frisell reflects an eclectic range of influences .... On "Disfarmer," he draws inspiration from the Depression-era portraits of little-known Arkansas photographer Michael Disfarmer. The result is a provocative soundscape that features a mixture of acoustic and electric guitars.... Creatively restless, Frisell is best suited for exploring vast territory and responding with imaginative integrity, which is evidenced on "Disfarmer." - Dan Ouellette, Billboard

"Exquisite." - Independent on Sunday

"Frisell's filmic themes summon up the ghosts of a lost America. The results are gently beautiful." The Times

"The tunes prove so hauntingly evocative that they conjure the spirits of long-vanished people and places without the need for visual accompaniment." - Metro

"The hymns and hoedowns of 'Disfarmer' are both affectionate and atmospheric." - Daily Telegraph

"You practically feel the Arkansas soil slipping through your fingers." - The Sun

"Frisell's pacing is magnificent, and the album sweeps along with purpose like a gorgeous, spacious epic. It is full of sounds that suggest settings and characters, including the mysterious eccentric who inspired the recording." - Houston Chronicle

In the small mountain town of Heber Springs, the Arkansas artist known as Disfarmer captured the lives and emotions of the people of rural America between 1939-1945. Critics have hailed Disfarmer's remarkable black and white portraits as "a work of artistic genius" and "a classical episode in the history of American photography.Disfarmer's work has captivated the imagination of the celebrated guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, who has been inspired to write and perform music in concert with multiple projected images from this treasure trove of period portraits. Three long-time musical collaborators, violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Viktor Krauss and steel guitarist Greg Leisz, will share the stage in interpreting Frisell's music. Set and lighting designer Alex Nichols is on board to spearhead the visual treatments of the program.

This piece was premiered at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio in March of 2007.   This project periodically tours and dates are posted on Bill's Tour page.

 
Blame Sally "Night of 1000 Stars"

Lee just finished Night of 1000 Stars by San Francisco band Blame Sally, creating an eclectic and undeniably original brand of folk pop that plays on the "indie edges of Americana".  Bringing together the four unique voices and musical personalities of Renee Harcourt, Monica Pasqual, Jeri Jones and Pam Delgado, Blame Sally has forged a cohesive musical identity that is compelling and instantly recognizable.  Night of 1000 Stars was engineered by Shawn Pierce and Adam Muñoz and mastered by Greg Calbi.

 

Doug Wamble

Lee recently finished producing the eponymously titled new album by singer-songwriter and guitarist Doug Wamble.  Released on the E1 Music label,  the music on Doug Wamble is rootsy, urbane and rhythmically vital featuring Doug's rich, soulful voice, his distinctive songwriting, his astonishing guitar playing and his excellent band.   Recorded in New York and mixed in Nashville with Jason Lehning and mastered with Greg Calbi, guests include Carrie Rodriguez, Charlie Hunter and Jonah Smith.

"For a jazz guitarist, Doug Wamble is one hell of a soul man -- not just his playing, but his writing, and especially his voice, which lies somewhere between Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. His background is evident in some of the chords he uses, but he hides it well, and the songs come across as lovely soul, as on the delicious "Sweet Return to Madness" and "It May Be a Dream," where the violin and voice of Carrie Rodriguez add some lovely delicacy to the proceedings. Wamble's guitar work takes a back seat for some of the disc, although he takes off on slide on the gospel-flavored "Bitter Angels" and works with Charlie Hunter on the opener, "Think About It All,"
while the slow build of "Oh Heaven," with its piano backdrop, offers a superb frame for his restrained solo. But this is an album that's about the song, not playing technique, and Wamble shows himself to be a songwriter of true talent... It all closes with a cover of Fiona Apple's "I Know" that returns Wamble to acoustic guitar, his natural instrument, giving a spare, aching version of the song. It's a soft, ideal closer to a lovingly crafted
disc." - Chris Nickson, All Music Guide

 

Floratone

Floratone is a studio-intensive collaborative project with drummer Matt Chamberlain, Bill Frisellproducers Lee Townsend and Tucker Martine featuring deep grooves, glistening melodies, ambient atmospheres and rich sonic textures. String and horn colors are provided courtesy of special guests Viktor Krauss, Ron Miles and Eyvind Kang. It is released on Blue Note Records. Check out Floratone.com for more information.

REVIEWS

The Decade In Review: Jazz And The Mash-Up

It's difficult to frame the last 10 years in jazz around its "most important" recordings: What strikes me as most important about this decade is that musically, anything went. In the age of the mash-up and the iPod shuffle -- where musically different artists can sit comfortably against each other -- jazz's continual flexibility to incorporate any number of sounds and distill them within a jazz framework is what's made this decade so refreshing.

So what defines "importance?" The musician in me wants to say that the most important albums were the ones that we believe to be the most musically skillful or adventurous, or those which introduce us to a new exciting voice in jazz -- Jason Moran, The Bad Plus and Brian Blade Fellowship come to mind. But what about albums with mass crossover appeal like Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; or recordings pegged to an event, such as Terence Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina); or Ornette Coleman's Pulitzer Prize-winning recording Sound Grammar? What about albums that explore a high-concept multimedia project like Bill Frisell's Disfarmer and Dave Douglas' Keystone? I think those are all good choices. They all brought attention to the music in creative new ways, and all capture their own snapshots of the 2000s.

One record that really exemplifies that for me is the Bill Frisell/Matt Chamberlain/Lee Townsend/Tucker Martine project Floratone. Taking the Teo Macero approach to production, Townsend and Martine crafted a stunning album from the free studio improvisations of Frisell and Chamberlain. Floratone's lush production brings in hints of New Orleans jazz, swampy R&B, surf rock and electronic music. But it also feels like an inventive and foward-thinking tapestry of sounds that could have only happened in this decade. -- Michael Katzif,  NPR.org

Most Innovative recording of 2007: "They shaped this record that's really not a jazz record at all. It's really this swamp language that I found incredibly interesting and beautiful and very different." -- Tom Moon, 2007: The Year in Review from All Songs Considered

“Taking a page from the Miles Davis/Teo Macero playbook, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Matt Chamberlain teamed up with longtime production pals  Martine and Townsend to create this studio-collaged musical masterpiece  - but Floratone doesn't sound anything like Bitches Brew or In a Silent Way....  The 11 compositions flow one into another like segments of a steady-moving river - in turns brooding, swampy, choppy, effervescent, and translucent. Chamberlain's tasteful grooves and accents provide the deepwater impetus, while Frisell's soulful vamps, plucky palm-mutes, shimmering harmonics, textural twang, and spacey atmospherics weave together into so many currents and undercurrents, as the horn and string lines glide majestically over the surface.  As intriguing as it is enjoyable, Floratone is easily one of the best records of 2007.”  Guitar Player

“Call it Ambient Americana Sound Sculpting ... The music on Floratone is largely based around Chamberlain’s behind-the-beat grooves and Frisell’s left-of-center blues-drenched chords and phrases...  it’s  not about soloing per se; rather it’s about collective interpretation, exploring all possible nuances.

Floratone shares much, in fact, with Teo Macero’s collage-like approach to sculpting In a Silent Way, though with modern digital editing the integration is so seamless that it’s often impossible to differentiate between live performance and studio construction. Not that it matters. The greatest success of Floratone is how organic, how natural the music sounds, the considerable  technology behind it notwithstanding. Despite all the electronic textures used from conception to final realization, it’s a distinctive, extremely appealing and visual collection of sonic landscapes.

There are those who believe that democratic/leaderless projects  are inherently doomed to failure. Floratone is a modern  masterpiece—a completely equitable collaboration between Frisell, Chamberlain, Townsend and Martine—that lays such claims to  waste.”    John Kelman,  All About Jazz


“This is some of the most vital and exciting guitar work Bill Frisell has ever committed to tape.... Listening to these unlikely swirls of sound is almost like the beginnings of some exotic new language, rising like steam from a swamp.  They're like nothing  else..... it's some of the most riveting instrumental  music to emerge this year.”  Tom Moon, NPR’s All Things Considered

"The fine-tuned soundscapes maintain a satisfyingly hypnotic menace."  UK Financial Times

“A soundscape bonanza infused with a melange of jazz, country, dub reggae, funk, rock and ambient music.”  Dan Ouellette, Billboard

 

 

Bill Frisell "History, Mystery" (Grammy Nominated for Best Instrumental Jazz Album)

Bill Frisell explores a fuller palette of orchestral colors and timbres than any he has previously written for. "History, Mystery" features an Octet of strings, horns and rhythm section with some of his closest collaborators - Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang, (viola), Hank Roberts (cello), Ron Miles (cornet), Greg Tardy (clarinet and tenor saxophone), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums).  Employing a symphonic sensibility of recurring thematic elements, "History, Mystery" premieres many new Frisell compositions as well as a few of his arrangements of favorite pieces by other songwriters.  Producer Lee Townsend and engineer Shawn Pierce recorded the group in various combinations and contexts, live and in the studio, to construct and shape the album.

"Some artists, as they grow older, have a tendency to retreat into a safety zone that displays their skill but doesn't expand their repertoire or provide impetus for keeping up. Not so guitarist Bill Frisell ... [H]e's been refining and expanding his palette with every release.... The whole album stands as yet another testament to the man's place at the very epicenter of modern American music. Yes, he's done it again." - Chris Jones, BBC.

The Guardian, in a four-star review of History, Mystery, says the album is "studded with gems," featuring a line-up of musicians that reviewer John L. Waters calls "a kind of roots-jazz-classical chamber hybrid, though with none of the hang-ups that might imply." Waters sees "a genuine thoughtfulness" from Bill, who, he writes, "has the surest touch as a musician." It is an attribute "that is true for his playing, where he can invest a single note with meaning, and it's true in the way he organizes his music and musicians."

The Independent calls History, Mystery the Jazz Album of the Week, with the paper's Tim Cumming calling it "extraordinarily eclectic" delivered in "an all but seamless suite that's full of musical contrasts, rich textures, lengthening shadows, and unexpected turns." Cumming says "it's consistently engaging" with a closing guitar solo that's "just wonderful." His colleague Nick Coleman adds that on this collection, listeners will find the "Frisell who makes great soundtrack music; the one who rejoices in sieving the Hot Club de Paris out of Thelonious Monk."

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock) “I've always admired (Frisell’s) spirit of adventure, his willingness to experiment and the depth of his talent and ambition... There's something about History, Mystery that just sucked me in right away..... It's artful, but warm and accessible. There are smatterings of jazz, blues, a little country, some tango and reverb rock ... but the seamless, natural-sounding integration of these diverse influences is engaging and often majestic.  The music has a spacious, cinematic scope that is enriched by a superb group of musicians... The sound is vintage and modern, warm and inviting.” - Ellis Widner

 

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