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It's fitting that the title of this disc contains only the names of its participants. After all, who needs a catchy title to sell a Bill Frisell album with Ron Carter and Paul Motian on it?
More than anyone from his generation, Frisell has succeeded in cultivating a sound so distinct that it defies comparison. The guitar becomes a wholly new instrument in his hands. Organ-like in its pulsing vibrato or conjuring vast, open spaces with sustained, reverberating swaths of sound, Frisell's uniqueness makes for distinct albums, a rarity these days. Needless to say, Ron Carter and Paul Motian seem to understand this, responding with sensitive, propulsive backing throughout the session.
"Eighty-One, a tune penned by Carter for Miles Davis, gets an ethereal reworking by Frisell and company, while still retaining the chugging, down-home feel that characterized it on the seminal album ESP. Frisell solos first, inserting haunting melodic fragments before handing off to Carter, who solos with dexterity as Motian oscillates between straight and swing eighth-note feels.
"You Are My Sunshine is masterfully done by the trio as a semi-dissonant ballad and shows the musicians' uncanny ability to create something beautiful out of material that few would touch. A similar high point is the Monk original "Raise Four. Frisell's solo is Monkish in its thematic development, while leaving space for Carter's asides and the relentless, idiosyncratic swing of Motian's drums. Carter's bass is playful throughout, dancing behind Frisell's phrases before offering up a swinging solo of his own.
Frisell's fondness for American folk music is once again on display here in his choice of the traditional "Pretty Polly and his original composition "Monroe. Over the churning pulse of Motian's snare, the simple melody of "Polly is stated in a twanged chant by the guitar, before the bass takes up the mantra. Similarly, "Monroe seems more of a meditation on a haunting melody than a jazz piece in any traditional sense of the word.
Frisell's 21st Nonesuch release ends with a touching rendition of Hank Williams' classic "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry. The country anthem finds the trio in a relaxed, soulful reverie, providing a fitting end to one of the best new albums I've heard in a long time.
Track Listing: Eighty-One; You Are My Sunshine; Worse and Worse; Raise Four; Pretty Polly; On The Street
Where You Live; Monroe; Introduction; Misterioso; I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry.
Personnel: Bill Frisell: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; Paul Motian: drums.