Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Floratone - Floratone (Blue Note, 2007)

Floratone began as a collaborative project between guitarist Bill Frisell and percussionist Matt Chemberlain, who got together to record a series of free duets in studio. After this, they called upon producers Lee Thownsend and Tucker Martine to radically revise the material somewhat along the lines of what Teo Macero would do with electric period Miles Davis. Finally, Viktor Krauss on bass, Ron Miles on cornet and Eyvind Kang on violin were called in to add the finishing touches. The final product is something Thowsend calls "futuristic roots music", a sound that takes on Frisell's signature Americana jazz and runs it through the fun-house mirrors of electronica, something like an earthier version of Charlie Hunter's Groundtruther project. Some of the lengthier tracks like "The Wanderer" and "The Passenger" do tend to drift a bit into a dreamy haze with a gentle, pastoral feeling. The problem here is that the groove becomes all encompassing and while pleasant. the tracks lose their sense of direction. The pithier tracks fare much better, like loose trilogy presumably referencing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at the center of the album. "Swamped", "Monsoon", and "Louisiana Longboat" all have tight structures which are aided and abetted by subtle loops and electronic additions. Frisell has his finest moments on these songs, particularly "Longboat" where he mines a deep blues groove. "The Future" which adds some sci-fi electronics to a traditional groove also works well as does "Frontiers" which starts out sunny, but grows steadily darker and more ominous as the track goes on. Overall, this is an experiment that works pretty well. With so many fingers in the pie there were a lot of chances for things to go wrong, but most of the pitfalls were avoided. This disc didn't do much for me on first impression, but it grew on me over time, it takes a while to digest all that is going on. Those looking for any radical jazztronica fusion may be disappointed, but fans of Frisell's collaboration with Hal Wilner, 2004's Unspeakable, will enjoy the music.

Send comments to: Tim