The old saying, you can't judge a book by its cover, certainly applies to the latest release by eclectic guitarist Bill Frisell on the Nonesuch label. The untitled recordingactually co-led by Frisell, pioneering bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Paul Motiandelivers an empathetic commentary on an expansive American musical landscape. What is pleasantly surprisingor perhaps reassuringis that this is accomplished by the unlikely combination of Frisell and Carter who would seem, on paper anyway, to be a most unusual grouping of musical personalities.
Frisell has built a career around the assimilation of country twang with the improvised spirit of jazz on the cutting edge. Carter, who first came to prominence as a member of the Miles Davis quintet during the '60s, has earned his rightful place in the jazz history books as both a leader of his own bands and one of jazz's busiest sidemen. As it turns out, the pairing of musicians with seemingly disparate backgrounds, who hang out on opposite ends of the jazz galaxy is not so bizarre after all. Listening to this disc reveals strikingly obvious similarities between two of the most influential jazz musicians working today.
The sympathetic interplay found throughout the disc's ten tracks sustains a serene, yet uplifting sonic space that celebrates a diverse sampling of 20th century Americana. Spirited interpretations of "Raise Four and "Misterioso by Thelonius Monk and "I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry by country legend Hank Williams fit in perfectly with the rather dark explorations of "You Are My Sunshine and "Pretty Polly. The call-and-response interactions, most notably on the aforementioned "Raise Four, expose an invigorated Carter, recalling the bassist's successful outings with guitarist Jim Hall in the '70s.
Carter's classic, "Eighty-One, opens the recording and allows room for the trio to get acquainted. A sense of open-ended camaraderie is quickly established, subtly offering a musical promise to the listener that is delivered right up to the last notes of the disc.
Personnel: Bill Frisell: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; Paul Motian: drums.