All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

2

Bill Frisell: Big Sur

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Big Sur, the mountainous coastal region of California lends itself to various geographical definitions—it isn't easy to pin down definitively. So, it was an inspired idea by the Monterey Jazz Festival to put guitarist Bill Frisell in a cabin in the area and commission music, because with Frisell, musical borders are delightfully amorphous. The suite that Frisell premiered at the 2012 MJF provided the blueprint for this album, which inhabits a strangely alluring space somewhere between modern chamber and country music, sprinkled with a little Frisellian magic dust that blurs the edges.

Frisell has a knack of evoking a sense of place with his often cinematic music, notably with All Hat (EmArcy, 2008), his country noir soundtrack to Leonard Farlinger's film. Here, his opening chord, spliced with drummer Rudy Royston's cymbal shot on "The Music of Glen Deven Ranch" conjures the Pacific waves crashing against the cliffs of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and sets the scene. Frisell's deft sonic brushstrokes embellish the interweaving lines of cellist Hank Roberts, violinist Jenny Scheinman and viola player Eyvind Kang—all of whom have long associations with the guitarist—creating music that's intimate and orchestral.

Varying moods capture the rugged splendor of the landscape and the serenity and "abiding peace" that Henry Miller wrote of in "Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch" (1957), with its few inhabitants "living at one with the creature world." Frisell pays brooding tribute to his closest neighbors during his cabin stay in "The Animals"; the combination of Robert's deep cello arco drone and a plaintive call and response between violin and viola sounds like a lament for old Indian souls that haunt the land. "Hawks" greater-rhythm intensity is driven by cello's bass ostinato, riffing violin and Royston's lively and imaginative stick work.

Simple melodies form the bare bones of these compositions, with strings plying circular, interlocking motifs while Frisell freely adds impressionistic touches to the group canvas. Lilting melody and waltz-like sway color several of the pieces; "Sing Together like a Family" sees Scheinman and Kang dovetail in harmonic and contrapuntal joy. "Song for Lana Weeks" exudes heartfelt warmth, so too the gently meandering ballad "We all Love Neil Young," which could have come from the inspired pen of old Shakey himself.

The lightly bouncing "A Good Spot" and the shimmering lyricism of "Somewhere" are vignettes, as fleeting as a glimpsed panorama. "Going to California" is somber yet grand, while the steady grooving "Highway 1" is a mosaic of succinct collective phrasing that exercises a hypnotic charm. Frisell's quasi West African figures on "A Beautiful View" recall the sublime The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch Records, 2003) while "The Big One" jives happily between the Beatles' rock 'n' roll and the surf-rock of the Beach Boys. "Shacked Up" shares pianist Thelonious Monk's minimalist approach to the blues, with Royston's rhythmic jiggery pokery a good imitation of Monk's unique dancing.

Like a great landscape painting, Frisell's suite-like sonic canvas of Big Sur invites repeated contemplation, where one can get dreamily seduced by the whole picture and happily lost in the fine details and subtly hypnotic contrasting hues.

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

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Charlie & Paul CD/LP/Track Review
Charlie & Paul
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Sunlight CD/LP/Track Review
Sunlight
by Jeff Winbush
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Fullmoon CD/LP/Track Review
Fullmoon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Fullmoon CD/LP/Track Review
Fullmoon
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Arise! CD/LP/Track Review
Arise!
by Chris May
Published: April 24, 2018
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 30, 2017
Read "Bullitt: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" CD/LP/Track Review Bullitt: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
by Chris May
Published: March 25, 2018
Read "Calvins Toboggan" CD/LP/Track Review Calvins Toboggan
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" CD/LP/Track Review Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 24, 2018
Read "Not Bound" CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "A Home In Between" CD/LP/Track Review A Home In Between
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 17, 2017