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Bill Frisell: Hemispheres & The Stars Are All New Songs, Vol. 1

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Jim Hall & Bill Frisell with Scott Colley & Joey Baron
Hemispheres
ArtistShare
2008


Jakob Bro
The Stars Are All New Songs, Vol. 1
Loveland Records
2008


Bill Frisell no doubt sees Hemispheres as a high point in his discography, for a variety of worthy reasons. First and foremost, he made the record with the legendary Jim Hall, an early influence for Frisell and later his teacher. The two had worked together before—Frisell played on two tracks on Hall's 1995 Dialogues (Telarc)—but here he had a full disc to play in duet with and a second to build a band around the master. Secondly, he got to work under the ArtistShare model: Fans get to "buy into" the recording process, offering financial support in exchange for access to the project as it develops. Expanding that concept, ArtistShare put out an open call for cover art and only after the thick, textural painting that graces the cover was selected did Hall and Frisell learn that the contribution came from a non-verbal, developmentally disabled woman. Another drama adding depth to the process was Hall's back surgery midway through the recording, extending the sessions over 18 months but giving Frisell added time to consider the project. The resulting package is fairly phenomenal, especially on the duo disc. Hall's sway over Frisell's playing is made more than apparent—they both enjoy transient jazz chordings interspersed with small melodic figures. But Frisell has a singular approach to using electronic effects and the ways he employs them in this setting are fascinating. While he's capable of building soft, shimmering plateaus of sound, here he is more sparing but no less bold. He might set a simple loop and sit back, letting Hall's rich hollow-body sing over it or toss a surprising pitch-shifted blur, only to pull it back seconds later. He smartly plays both accompanist and duet partner and the playing by both is never less than beautiful. The two covers they chose—Milt Jackson's "Bag's Groove" and Bob Dylan's "Masters of War"—define their territory of American guitar music and jazz melodicism. On top of that, the second disc is gravy. Adding two longtime Hall bandmates—bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron—they go for a fully satisfying jazz outing, with such standards as "I'll Remember April," "Chelsea Bridge," "My Funny Valentine" and "In a Sentimental Mood," along with two of Hall's compositions and a group piece.

As Hemispheres is a nod to an elder hero, Danish guitarist Jakob Bro's The Stars Are All New Songs, Vol. 1 comes off as a love letter back to Frisell. Bro has crafted an album that could pass as a lost session from Frisell's early '90s output, abetted by the latter guitarist's appearance on six of the nine tracks and the slow shuffle of Paul Motian's drums, an element in many Frisell sessions as well. Bro's slowly unfolding themes are well-suited for Frisell, whose mark is more than made on the disc. It's only when the horns come in, two or three at a clip, that Bro's voice as a composer and arranger is really heard. The rich, round horn lines, slowly separating and falling together, as played by Mark Turner, Chris Cheek, Jesper Zeuthen and Andrew D'Angelo, are where the leader really shows his hand.


Tracks and Personnel

Hemispheres

Tracks: Throughout; All Across the City; Bag's Groove; Migration; Family; Waiting to Dance; Bimini; Masters of War; Beijing Blues; Monica Jane; I'll Remember April; Barbaro; Chelsea Bridge; Owed to Freddie Green; Beija Flor; Hear and Now; My Funny Valentine; Card Tricks; In a Sentimental Mood; Sonnymoon for Two.

Personnel: Jim Hall: guitar; Bill Frisell: guitar; Scott Colley: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

The Stars Are All New Songs, Vol. 1

Tracks: Sound Flower; Origin; The Boy From Saladan; Romantics; Duke Ellington Boulevard; Waltzing Trees; Reconstructing a Dream; Drumscapes; Eugenie.

Personnel: Bill Frisell: guitar; Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitar; Jakob Bro: guitar; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Jesper Zeuthen: alto saxophone; Andrew D'Angelo: bass clarinet; Ben Street: bass; Paul Motian: drums


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