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Fred Frith: To Sail, To Sail, Pas de Deux & The Big Picture/Still Urban

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Fred Frith

To Sail, To Sail

Tzadik

2008


Fred Frith, Danielle Palardy Roger

Pas de deux

Actuelle

2008


Fred Frith and Arte Quartett

The Big Picture

Intakt

2009


Fred Frith and Arte Quartett

Still Urban

Intakt

2009


There are very few musicians as versatile yet as instantly recognizable as Fred Frith. These four discs demonstrate the many facets of his craft as an improvising composer, blurring timbral and compositional boundaries as he reinvents his art.

To Sail, To Sail, a solo disc and first to feature acoustic guitar exclusively, is a study in contrast, space and unpretentious virtuosity. The opening slide gestures set the tone for the series of brief but pithy explorations to follow as each sound blooms, connected to its environment in unexpected ways. Listen to the gamelan-like textures and exotically-tuned scalar passages on "Mondays," the bent notes surprising as they bring yet another cultural element into the equation. On "Life-Enhancing Interior," a listener could be forgiven for mistaking the sounds for bowed instruments and percussion, as is the case with several other tracks. Continuing in the tradition of Guitar Improvisations and Clearing, Frith has fashioned a radical series of sonic excursions whose recorded sound is as beautiful and as subtle as the playing.

The same can be said of Pas de Deux, Frith's duo disc with percussionist Danielle P. Rogers, a stunning series of improvisations that, according to the notes, are somehow edited and even superimposed. The results are intriguing and diverse. Contrast the frenetic power and fractious pointillisms of "Dernier cri" with the ageless beauty and meditative grace of "L'Auberge des Quatre vents 1," with its flute-like guitar work and eventual shamanistic vocalizations. The recordings are first-rate, details coming to the fore while the overall picture is never marred or blurred.

Frith's chamber music has not always been satisfying but The Big Picture and Still Urban have enough improvised elements to keep textures interesting and paces changing. Both highlight Frith's fascinating approach to composition, blending spare passages of multi-colored sonority with extended instrumental techniques and occasional field recordings. "Still Urban" incorporates city sounds into its sonic landscape, its first movement fading in on a soft breeze of soprano saxophone and street scene. Yet, the crunchy guitar scree of the eighth part speaks to an entirely different aesthetic that has been reached via myriad changes, slow and sudden. The playing of the Arte Quartett is virtuosic—Beat Hofstetter (soprano), Sascha Armbruster (alto), Andrea Formenti (tenor and soprano) and Beat Kappeler (baritone)—especially apparent when earlier pieces are reconsidered; the reworked "Freedom in Fragments" demonstrates the change, the "Song and Dance" movement much livelier and somehow more fluid than the version with the Rova Saxophone Quartet. Of the newer tunes, "Red Rag" is particularly infectious.

Tracks and Personnel



To Sail, To Sail

Tracks: Because Your Mama Wants You Home; Weather Gauge; Reconstructed; Life on Venus; Mondays; LifeEenhancing Interior; First Light; Scratch Orchestra; The Wrong Door; Circuit Breakers and Fuses; The Slightest Shiver; Sheep's Head, 1963; Life by Another Name; Dog Watch; Hopscotch Horizon; King Dawn.

Personnel: Fred Frith: guitars.



Pas de deux

Tracks: Dernier cri; Arpeggio's Dreamscape; Sala Rossa; L'Auberge des Quatre vents 1; L'Auberge des Quatre vents 2; Sala Nera; Jeux de l'oblivion; Adieu Jonquière.

Personnel: Fred Frith: guitar: Danielle Palardy Roger:percussion.



The Big Picture

Tracks: The Big Picture Parts 1—6; Freedom In Fragments Parts 1—15.

Personnel: Fred Frith: electric guitar; Beat Hofstetter: soprano saxophone; Sascha Armbruster: alto saxophone; Andrea Formenti: tenor and sopranino saxophone; Beat Kappeler: baritone and alto saxophones.



Still Urban

Tracks: Still Urban Parts 1—9.

Personnel: Fred Frith: electric guitar; Beat Hofstetter: soprano saxophone; Sascha Armbruster: alto saxophone; Andrea Formenti: tenor and sopranino saxophone; Beat Kappeler: baritone and alto saxophones.

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Bill Laswell, Fred Frith, Charles Hayward, Dave Lombardo
The Chapel
San Francisco, CA

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