Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Best of Bill Frisell, Vol. 1: Folk Songs (Nonesuch, 2009)

Guitarist Bill Frisell is one of the most quintessentially American musicians in jazz today, drawing on the musical traditions of roots music and molding them to suit a modern jazz sensibility. This disc is a themed sample of the music he has recorded for the Nonesuch label and focuses on one aspect of many that make up this complex musician. "Americana" is the term most often applied to Frisell's music, and although it can be a misleading one, it is accurate for this disc, where we find mixed in with jazz the soulful country music of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and a stark, haunting version of country-rocker John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me." The blues is a deep river that runs through the length and breadth of American music and Bill Frisell has ridden that river many times, as on the ancient blues standard "Sittin' On Top of the World" where he plays the song in a manner more reminiscent of the Mississippi Sheiks than the more famous Howlin' Wolf version. Frisell's vision of American music reaches back even farther than the 20th Century and it is there we find music like the original "The Pioneers" and the old time ballad "Shenandoah." While this disc probably will not appeal to those who prefer Frisell's more progressive work that he cut with ECM and with seekers like John Zorn and Roland Shannon Jackson, it is a fine introduction to the Americana side of his musical personality, combining his roots in folk, country and blues with the improvisational jazz that has sustained him. This is a very good introduction to the work of Bill Frisell for people who enjoy traditional American music or are coming to his music for the first time after hearing him in a soundtrack or on the radio. Hopefully, Nonesuch will make a second disc on this vein which captures some more of his original stylings as well as his approach to progressive jazz and world music. This would help new fans get a more well rounded picture of this fascinating and ever evolving musician.
The Best of Bill Frisell, Vol. 1: Folk Songs -

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