459

Bill Frisell: The Intercontinentals

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
It's time to admit a bias. Anyone who covers Boubacar Traoré automatically scores points in my book. The Malian guitarist is infinitely remote to anyone outside Mali, but that isn't for any good reason except the vagaries of the recording industry. It's fitting that guitarist Bill Frisell would choose "Boubacar" as the opener to The Intercontinentals given the international flavor of the record, the omnipresence of Malian percussionist Sidiki Camara, and the way blues from Mali builds feeling and depth from simple cyclical structures. Frisell and his quintet use loops to reinforce a constant turnover; they never stray into complexity or density, and they hit the one like it's a slice of heaven. I guess they've checked Boubacar out. With eerie voice snippets and dramatic reverberant twang, The Intercontinentals also stamp it all their own.

A few words about the players and styles on this record. Obviously Frisell made a conscious choice to surround himself with an international crew (from Brazil, Mali, Greece, Los Angeles, and New York) and to pursue tunes that never stop in the same place twice. That's the main distinction of The Intercontinentals and the feature which lends it strength. Whatever traditions the group chooses to salute, purity is never part of

the equation, and that's absolutely key. And the fact that everyone plays either strings or percussion certainly flavors the sound accordingly.

In recent years Frisell has turned ever closer toward American heartland music, replacing his previous maverick self with a regular-guy country persona. To be honest, that has been a disappointing trend since it has boxed him in and withdrawn much of the color from his music. He certainly doesn't suffer from a lack of imagination, though, and it's nice to see that put to good use on this record. The country aspect never leaves the music (there's enough lap and pedal steel in the hands of Greg Leisz to build a skyscraper), but it gets a needed infusion from all angles.

Frisell matches his by now trademark lush and reverberant guitar sound with the emphatic singularity of the oud and the organic slide of the violin. "Listen" and " Good Old People" have a warm, easy tendency toward resolution. On Boubacar's "Baba Drame" Sidiki Camara adds vocals. The expectant funk of "Prociss'o" rides with harmonized Brazilian vocals and a down home bluegrass prance. The brief "Young Monk" is the only acoustic piece, a duet where Frisell's nylon string guitar supports trilling, accented minor melodies on Christos Govetas' oud. An oddly symphonic blues drives "Eli," only to wind down with the record's sad, pared-down closer, "Remember."

In the end the buoyancy of a multifaceted band, eclectic voicings, and creative choice of material render The Intercontinentals an unqualified success. I'd rather Frisell replace his Americana obsession with something a little more interesting; this recording certainly represents a huge leap in the right direction.

Note: this record is a top ten modern jazz guitar pick.


Track Listing: Boubacar; Good Old People; For Christos; Baba Drame; Listen; Anywhere Road; Procissao; The Young Monk; We Are Everywhere; Yala; Perritos; Magic; Eli; Remember

Personnel: Bill Frisell-electric and acoustic guitars,loops, bass; Sidiki Camara-calabash, djembe, congas, percussion, vocals; Vinicius Cantuaria-electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, drums, percussion; Christos Govetas-oud, vocals, bouzouki; Greg Leisz-slide guitars, pedal steel guitar; Jenny Scheinman-violin

Title: The Intercontinentals | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Elusive CD/LP/Track Review Elusive
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Transitions CD/LP/Track Review Transitions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Door Girl CD/LP/Track Review Door Girl
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Incidentals CD/LP/Track Review Incidentals
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Peninsular" CD/LP/Track Review Peninsular
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Hudson" CD/LP/Track Review Hudson
by Doug Collette
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Liquid Melodies" CD/LP/Track Review Liquid Melodies
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 1, 2017
Read "Backlog" CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "A Wing Dissolved In Light" CD/LP/Track Review A Wing Dissolved In Light
by John Sharpe
Published: July 29, 2017
Read "Incidentals" CD/LP/Track Review Incidentals
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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