Bill Frisell – Music Is – Okeh

by | Apr 2, 2018 | Jazz CD Reviews

A master of Americana music…

Bill Frisell – Music Is – Okeh/Sony Masterworks 19075815002 – 58:44 – ****:

(Bill Frisell – electric and acoustic guitars; loops; bass; ukulele, music boxes)

Bill Frisell is a guitarist for all seasons. He fits in as the ultimate guitar sideman. His tastes are eclectic and cover rock, country, jazz, and bluegrass. His use of variable timbre is well known and he can combine beautiful melody with a rapid progression into dissonance. On one session he can cover John Lennon (All We Are Saying in 2011) and then play on a John Zorn Tzadik label that can satisfy the avant garde leanings.

It has been quite awhile since Frisell’s previous solo album, Ghost Town. On his latest CD, Music Is, he returns to recording only his own compositions. There are five new tracks among the fifteen numbers, plus an alternate version of “Rambler” (that revisits one of his early ECM releases). His new CD was recorded at Tucker Martine’s Flora Recording and Playback Studio in Portland, Or. The acoustics are crisp and clear, and the echo of plucked strings is ever present. As the tracks were laid down, they were mixed to keep Frisell’s vision sharp. Though known primarily for his electric guitar, there are acoustic tracks, and bass and ukulele are mixed in to broaden the sonic palette.

Frisell is a master of utilizing loops ( a small section of music that is repeated) and this technique is used often here. On “Pretty Stars” a listener could swear that there are two guitarists interacting. There is a chorus effect on “Change in the Air.” Bill’s love for folk music is heard on “Thankful.” “The Pioneers” has Frisell on acoustic guitar in a country music vein. Throughout the CD the one jazz guitarist that I sensed that has influenced Bill, is Jim Hall, especially in his employment of the less is more philosophy. There are no blazing solos here, but fans of dissonance will dig the brief track, “Think About It.”

“Go Happy Lucky” shows a blues influence. Frisell fans will enjoy comparing older tracks like “Ron Carter” and “Monica Jane” (named for his daughter) to the new versions presented here. It is readily apparent that there is something here for both Frisell fanatics, as well as those that appreciate a guitar exploration of Americana music genres that have fascinated Bill Frisell for over fifty years.

Pretty Stars, Winslow Homer, Change in the Air, What Do You Want?, Thankful, Ron Carter, Think About It, In Line, Rambler, The Pioneers, Monica Jane, Miss You, Go Happy Lucky, Kentucky Derby, Made to Shine, (Bonus Track) Rambler (Alternate Version)

—Jeff Krow

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