Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jewels and Binoculars - Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot Records, 2007)

Jewels and Binoculars is a collective trio made up of Lindsey Horner on bass, Michael Moore on saxophone and clarinet and Michael Vatcher on drums and percussion. This group came together to play instrumental versions of music by Bob Dylan. They are joined on this album by guitarist Bill Frisell on three tracks. The addition of Frisell is an inspired move, he has covered Dylan before on his own albums and his Americana inspired jazz guitar adds excellent spice to the music. At first, the music of Bob Dylan may seem like an odd choice for an improvising jazz band, but his music has very strong melodies and this allows the band to craft some wonderful improvisational flights while staying true to the source material. Frisell's guitar is a potent force on "Blind Willie McTell" with looped and processed guitar lines setting the tone for the slowly developing and atmospheric song. Frisell also adds wonderfully to "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)." The shorter tracks hit hard with some fine collective improvisation. "Father of Night" and "If You See Her, Say Hello" state their cases quickly and efficiently in under four minutes apiece, stating Dylan's melody succinctly and then drawing logical and impassioned improvisations from it. I enjoyed this album quite a bit. The group sounded really comfortable and challenged by the material, and the addition of one of my favorite musicians, Bill Frisell, made the music even more powerful. This music will be enjoyed by all fans of improvised music.

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