Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bill Frisell - Rambler (ECM 1985, 2008)

Guitarist Bill Frisell made his breakthrough with this airy and atmospheric album, re-released recently as a budget-priced cardboard sleeve in ECM's Touchtones series. It's good to have it back in regular circulation as it is one of the guitarist's most interesting and unique early albums. Accompanied by an unusual group with Kenny Wheeler on trumpet, Bob Stewart on tuba, Jerome Harris on bass and Paul Motian on drums, the music maintains an eerie and atmospheric sound throughout while still foreshadowing the rootsy Americana that Frisell would explore to great effect later in his career. The music has a hazy and "seen through the veil" type of feel, with the instrumentation giving the music a individual texture. Bumping tuba and shimmering trumpet turn "Where We Go" into a Sousa march from an alternate universe, while the subtle and subversive melody of "Rambler" is not easily forgotten. Sneaking, sizzling guitar powers "Resistor" over insistent piston like tuba. "Strange Meeting" has a slithering and slinky guitar solo, followed by breezy trumpet to good effect. This is a unique and unusual sounding jazz album. Frisell's conception of instrumental colors, and his compositions come together well to create interesting and memorable music.

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