Atmospheric isn't just an adjective for Bill Frisell, it's a concise description of the aesthetic he's followed through much of his career. While he's a masterful player in various contexts, Frisell's magic is how much he can create with so little; he's capable of creating tremendously evocative soundscapes with just an electric guitar, some reverb, and the occasional use of a looping pedal. While jazz is a fitting category for his work, if anyone in contemporary music has a style that transcends genre, it would be Frisell. 2019's HARMONY is not just the title of a Bill Frisell album but his name for the ensemble that created it -- Frisell and Luke Bergman on guitars, Hank Roberts on cello, and Petra Haden on vocals. On HARMONY, Frisell and his partners play a handful of Frisell originals (his lyricists include Elvis Costello and Julie Miller) alongside an assortment of classic American songs, a variety that encompasses the venerable show tune "On the Street Where You Live," Billy Strayhorn's jazz standard "Lush Life," and the classic cowboy song "Red River Valley." The mysterious frameworks of Frisell's guitar work are at the center of the performances, but Bergman and Roberts complement his performances with subtle grace and a sure hand, and Haden's vocals are lovely, whether she's exploring the nuances of a classic lyric or wordlessly adding her own textures to the melody. (Bergman and Roberts also contribute harmony vocals, and they interact with Haden with the same kind of care and imagination that they display with Frisell's instrumental work.) HARMONY sometimes feels so ethereal that it could blow away in a strong breeze, but there's a strength in the quiet of these sessions, and the best moments are nothing short of magic. If you're looking for music that will suit a quiet night with intelligence and style, you should certainly give HARMONY a listen.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming