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Jim Hall / Bill Frisell: Hemispheres

Mark F. Turner By

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Hemispheres is a wonderful collaboration between two esteemed veteran guitarists, Jim Hall and Bill Frisell. Though each has travelled different yet celebrated paths, this is their first full length (double CD) release together.

Hall's masterful playing, tempered by a smooth rotund tone, has been appreciated since the 1950s in performances with such names as Chico Hamilton, Ella Fitzgerald and later collaborations with Pat Metheny and Greg Osby. Frisell (a former student of Hall) is considered to be one of today's foremost guitarists; a renaissance artist, comfortable in any format from mainstream jazz, Americana storytelling, to progressive rock and experimental musings.

Disc one is a duo setting with the artists revealing not only a rapport, but also a fret-board kinship, as well as some surprises along the way. The tracks cover a variety of contours and hues. Spontaneous inventions are formed in the improvisations "Throughout" and "Migration," a fifteen minute exodus that travels from expanding nebulas to swampy bayous. Blues and beyond as Hall's free (yet always tempered) ideas counter Frisell's real-time manipulation of loops and electronics.

Frisell's rural poignancy rings true in "Family" whereas Hall's gracefulness fills "Waiting To Dance," a portrait in harmony and dissonance. The two preach the good times in "Beijing Blues" and earnestly lament on a moving reading of the Bob Dylan tune, "Masters of War."

The second disc finds Hall and Frisell in a quartet setting—joined by the resolute abilities of drummer Joey Baron and bassist Scott Colley—covering a mix of standards and originals. The magic rekindles on the Latin-tinged "I'll Remember April" and the abstract modal-blues workout, "Barbaro," where Hall's acoustic strings compliment Frisell's electronics wizardry. But a diamond is found in Billy's Strayhorn's timeless "Chelsea Bridge." The aesthetic and mood is exhilarating, each voice moves in empathy, resulting in a divine interpretation.

By contrast, Hall's "Here and Now" is atonal; a sound-pen for the artists to play in—strange noises, experimentation and symmetry. Like McCoy Tyner's Guitars (Half Note, 2008), Hall not surprisingly, continues, to think outside of the box. From the abstract "Card Tricks," where Frisell creates wonderfully weird tones, to the harmonious conversation of strings in their version of "In a Sentimental Mood" to soulfully swinging in Rollins' "Sonnymoon for Two," Hall and Frisell deliver a delightful release; a little something for everyone. There have been many collaborations over the years, some better than others, and Hemispheres is one of the best.

Visit Jim Hall and Bill Frisell on the web.

Track Listing: CD1: Throughout; All Across the City; Bag's Groove; Migration; Family; Waiting to Dance; Bimini; Masters of War; Beijing Blues; Monica Jane. CD2: I'll Remember April; Barbaro; Chelsea Bridge; Owed to Freddie; Beija Flor; Here and Now; My Funny Valentine; Card Tricks; In a Sentimental Mood; Sonnymoon for Two.

Personnel: Jim Hall: guitar; Bill Frisell: guitar; Joey Baron: drums (CD2); Scott Colley: bass (CD2).

Title: Hemispheres | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ArtistShare

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