345

Bill Anschell: Figments

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
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 Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Rev CD/LP/Track Review Rev
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren CD/LP/Track Review The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 16, 2017
Read Any Other Way CD/LP/Track Review Any Other Way
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Rome" CD/LP/Track Review Rome
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 18, 2017
Read "Live at PafA" CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Solstice" CD/LP/Track Review Solstice
by Budd Kopman
Published: December 17, 2016
Read "Windmills" CD/LP/Track Review Windmills
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 24, 2017
Read "Sweet Ruby Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Sweet Ruby Suite
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 31, 2017
Read "Cinema Spiral" CD/LP/Track Review Cinema Spiral
by Troy Collins
Published: October 22, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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