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Bill Frisell: Big Sur

Glenn Astarita By

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Bill Frisell: Big Sur Heralded guitar maestro Bill Frisell combines his 858 Quartet and Beautiful Dreamers units to impart another watermark on his Americana legacy, featuring an organic acoustic-electronic sketch of this picturesque area of California coastline. The album comprises nineteen-tracks, spanning Civil War-era country-chamber, undulating ostinatos, layered strings, parts, and even snippets of surf music on "The Big One."

Frisell's aural snapshots of Big Sur tender an alluring vista melded with melodic content and occasional detours amid a polychromatic framework, mottled with understated themes and contrasting interactions with the strings contingent. Pieces such as "The Animals" project solstice via a somber strings part, but counterbalanced by the guitarist's edgy overtones and scraping techniques, evoking the image of a scene complete with condors nesting along the cliffs. Indeed, the band summons a great deal of imagery.

Drummer Rudy Royston lays down a flashy rock pulse during "A Beautiful View," anchoring Frisell's gentle electric guitar voicings and odd-metered choruses, contrasting "We All Love Neil Young," where he engages in quaint dialogues with violinist Jenny Scheinman for a rather quaint, folk-like ballad. Composition-based diversity is a key aspect and shines on the brooding rock groove modeled with a two-note melody, executed within the perimeters of "Shackled Up." The closing "Far Away" finds the band perpetuating a gradual ascension, marked by Frisell's stoic electric guitar phrasings, plush with atmospherics and shadings that shift this tone poem out to sea, so to speak.

Big Sur isn't a radical change of ideology when considering Frisell's past, chamber-tinted folk musings, but it excels as a platform that should feed the imaginative powers while shedding newly found hues and nuances on subsequent listens.

Track Listing: The Music of Glen Deven Ranch; Sing Together Like a Family; A Good Spot; Going to California; The Big One; Somewhere; Gather Good Things; Cry Alone; The Animals; Highway 1; A Beautiful View; Hawks; We All Love Neil Young; Big Sur; On the Lookout; Shacked Up; Walking Stick (for Jim Cox); Song for Lana Weeks; Far Away.

Personnel: Bill Frisell: guitar; Jenny Scheinman: violin; Eyvind Kang: viola; Hank Roberts: cello; Rudy Royston: drums.

Title: Big Sur | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Okeh


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