Bill Frisell Further East/Further West Nonesuch Records
Bill Frisell is an exceptional musician because he has the ability to mine the usual guitaristic textures without getting caught up in clichés, to unearth original ore in the same old vein. Further East/Further West (available only in download form) is a companion album to 2005's East/West, culling material from the same two gigs: four-night stands at the Village Vanguard (December, 2003) and Oakland's Yoshi's (May, 2004), respectively.
As on the earlier release, the eastern and western dates exhibit slightly different personalities. Further East consists entirely of "standards," including a rootsy version of Leon Payne's "Lost Highway, an all-but-unrecognizable treatment of "Body and Soul, an elegantly harmonized "What the World Needs Now (by Bacharach & David), and an exquisite solo rendition of Harold Arlen's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The selections are shorter and the rhythm section remains in a mostly supportive role, with the exception of Sonny Rollins' "Paradox, where Tony Scherr contributes a bopping bass solo and drummer Kenny Wollesen waxes conversational.
By contrast, the compositions on Further West are all Frisell originals, offered up in extended workouts that prominently feature looped electronics and surf guitar tremolo. "Lookout for Hope sounds like a jam band version of the surfing classic "Telstar (with a little nastiness thrown in); "Monroe features a guitar vibrato as wide as a Montana sky; while "Egg Radio recalls Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun. The greasy spoon funk of "Big Shoe finds the guitarist exploring loop textures with phase and octave shifts, echo-plexing and whammied chords.
These pared-down trio settings will appeal to Frisell fans, as they give the guitarist a chance to stretch out, forefronting his tasteful touch and eclectic timbral palette.
This recording is available from iTunes and other sources on the web.