345

Bill Anschell: Figments

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Bill Anschell: Figments Pianist Bill Anschell normally involves himself in projects that shine with a high polish, recordings like the Wellstone Conspiracy's collaborative Motives (Origin, 2010) and his own More to the Ear than Meets the Eye (Origin, 2006), or in the sideman slot on the marvelous Reunion, led by saxophonists Pete Christlieb and Hadley Caliman. In addition, Anschell served as Nnenna Freelon's pianist/arranger/musical director for a number of years, where a sheen on the vocalist's backdrop was the name of the game.

Anschell goes with a very different approach on Figments, exploring the world of solo piano, in a late night, after-the paying-gig, no-adult-supervision frame of mind. The results, even for those familiar with Anschell's work, are a wonderful surprise.

Anschell's ability to craft a cohesive ensemble sound can sometimes overshadow his skill, creativity and spontaneity as a pianist. There's no chance of that happening on Figments, as he sits down alone on an odd set of Great American Songbook classics, mixed with a bunch of unlikely tunes, covered in an idiosyncratic way. Anschell stretches and bends the familiar melodies to near-breaking point, in turns ruminative, playful, dark, and sparkling.

Anschell sounds very much as if he's enjoying the freedom of exploring Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant"—playing, then brooding, taking unexpected turns around the famous eatery, romping and then sauntering, as he maintains the thread of the melody. Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" has a things-that-go-bump-and-plunk-in-the-night sound ("Late last night I heard the screen door slam.."), as Anschell uses a prepared piano to alter the sound through odd items placed inside the box: a rubber mouse pad, a necklace with plastic beads, a book, a tape measure...all in an approach that must drive his piano tuner crazy, but lends a unique, clunky-but-modern sound to the normal hammer-on-strings.

Rodgers and Hart's always lovely "It Never Entered My Mind" gets a makeover, with a brooding mood and some subtle dissonance, while Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" gets twisted around, as Anschell frolics from the familiar into unexplored possibilities of the tune.

Anschell visits the 1960s with his pop music choices, with The Beatles' "Across the Universe" and "Ask Me Why," The Eagles' "Desperado," and Blood, Sweat and Tears' "Spinning Wheel," all filtered through Anschell's sonic funhouse mirror, while the standard "Willow Weep for Me" and "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" inject some energy and sass to the set.

Figments: Bill Anschell alone and letting go, taking a risk that pays off nicely.

Track Listing: My Heart Belongs to Daddy; All My Tomorrows; Alice's Restaurant; Big Yellow Taxi; It Never Entered My Mind; Willow Weep for Me; Spinning Wheel; Across the Universe; Honeysuckle Rose; Desperado; I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; Ask Me Why.

Personnel: Bill Anschell: piano, prepared piano (4).

Title: Figments | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Origin Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Second Act CD/LP/Track Review Second Act
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Imaga Mondo CD/LP/Track Review Imaga Mondo
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Port Of Call CD/LP/Track Review Port Of Call
by John Sharpe
Published: August 23, 2017
Read May I Introduce To You CD/LP/Track Review May I Introduce To You
by James Nadal
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Honey And Salt CD/LP/Track Review Honey And Salt
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 22, 2017
Read To the Bone CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "Into A Myth" CD/LP/Track Review Into A Myth
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 19, 2017
Read "Ida Lupino" CD/LP/Track Review Ida Lupino
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 15, 2016
Read "Big Wheel Live" CD/LP/Track Review Big Wheel Live
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Swong" CD/LP/Track Review Swong
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 27, 2016
Read "Garden" CD/LP/Track Review Garden
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 21, 2016
Read "Out Of The Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Out Of The Blue
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 15, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.