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Bill Frisell Band
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At A Glance
On Unspeakable, guitarist Bill Frisell and producer Hal Willner (Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed) take a freewheelings, idiosyncratic approach to the modern art of music sampling, in a groove-and-soul based project. Frisell and Willner employ often obscure songs and sounds culled from vintage vinyl as the jumping off-point for their own sonic explorations, with choice fragments borrowed and integrated into original compositions. Unspeakable can have a fierce and infectious groove at times, and at others will adopt a more relaxed and reflective feel.
Good Dog Happy Man
The live-simple equation reached in the title of Good Dog, Happy Man might lull the listener into believing that Bill Frisell's continuing vamp on his Nashville band is reaching for the quaintest sounds possible. But in truth, this mellow-opening recording is as reaching and full of yearning as any of the guitar great's other releases. He draws in the full-on bluegrass sound of Nashville with the more rock-hard crunch of that redoubtable effort's successor, Gone, Just Like a Train, which debuted longtime session drummer Jim Keltner as an ideal foil for Frisell's squishy guitar end runs around flashiness. Keltner's back on board, as is bassist Viktor Krauss (who began his Frisellian foray on Nashville), but the band has grown to include Wayne Horvitz on Hammond B-3 for several steamy tracks, Greg Leisz on steel guitar and mandolin, and Billy Cox on second six-string guitar. Frisell marks each tune with a uniquely decentered stamp, giving off a comfortable aura for new listeners and sneaking in gobs of weird twists and phrases. In addition, he samples in layers of squiggles in spots, making Dog sound like an ageless pop gem as well as the boundary-busting bounty that it is. --Andrew Bartlett
Gone, Just Like a Train
Bill Frisell is a soulful jazz minimalist with a sophisticated sense of harmony, a daring rhythmic approach, and an instantly recognizable, personal sound--part jazz, part rockabilly, part blues, part psychedelia--a remarkable melodist who can transmute single notes into sapphire tears. Yet while his fellow improvisors have pursued more and more complex forms, Frisell seems to be reaching back to the simplest folk forms to animate his post-modernist's view of Americana, and Gone, Just Like a Train is a cultural whistle-stop that conveys his land's epic rhythmic dynamism, regional diversity, and backwaters of mystery and quiet wonder. It's as if the Modern Jazz Quartet interpolated Cream, and together with his remarkable collaborators, bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Jim Keltner, the Bill Frisell Trio successfully plumbs a variety of expressive forms within the raging seas of intellectual complexity that have traditionally defined the domain of modern jazzman. --Chip Stern
Have a Little Faith
Have a Little Faith guitarist Bill Frisell italicized his stature as a composer and arranger within a combo setting that achieves a perfect balance of form and free-wheeling interpretive intensity. Frisell's core working section of the time (drummer Joey Barron and bassist Kermit Driscoll) are augmented by clarinet innovator Don Byron and a very fine accordionist, Guy Klucevsek , which gives this music chamber-like tonal colors, while allowing Frisell to elicit expansive big band gestures through a repertoire of material that is never hectic, just blithely eclectic-staking a claim for Frisell in the pantheon of great American composers and songwriters with whom he allies himself here. Thus there's a blissfully funky reading of blues giant McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield's "I Can't Be Satisfied" and--from the other side of the universe--a loveably raucous take on John Phillip Sousa's "Washington Post March." Elsewhere, Frisell navigates the waters of such enigmatic modernists as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Sonny Rollins, Bob Dylan, and John Hiatt with equal affection and grace. --Chip Stern
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