Bill Frisell

Live

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A Bill Frisell solo can invoke amber waves of grain, the south side of Chicago, and various places in New England, all in the space of three bars. His tonal palette is hugely varied, yet his sound is completely personal -- only Richard Thompson can boast a guitar style so individual and fully realized. Think of the music of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Charles Mingus; jazz has always lived at the murky nexus between African music and European art music, and what makes Frisell unique is his ability to take those same two basic ingredients and come up with something that sounds brand new. That he's liable to quote Chuck Berry at the same time says something about his sweetness of spirit. This album finds Frisell onstage with bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Joey Baron, running through a few faves ("Throughout," "Strange Meeting," "When We Go"), as well as some more obscure and surprising material. Driscoll is a sharply intuitive bassist with a reggae player's feel for silence; Baron punctuates more than he undergirds. As a result, this is largely music without groove. Instead, it hovers and floats overhead like a benevolent thunderstorm, sometimes letting loose rumbling, atonal chaos like "Crumb" and sometimes emitting bolts of pure electric light such as the utterly charming "Rag" and the yearning sweetness of "Throughout." "Pip, Squeak/Goodbye" steps briefly into tango territory, and Frisell takes the Sonny Rollins composition "No Moe" all the way back to the Delta with a bent blues solo. The John Hiatt cover, by the way, is the emotional centerpiece of the album: a deeply felt rendition of "Have a Little Faith in Me." This is a very special disc.

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