Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bill Frisell / Thomas Morgan - Epistrophy (ECM, 2019)

Guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan had an excellent run at the Village Vanguard in New York City in December of 2016, playing as a simpatico duet, performing standards, popular songs and originals before an appreciative audience. This part of the recording is based around the classic Thelonious Monk composition "Epistrophy," and they play a beautiful version of it, gradually easing into the familiar melody, and then unhurriedly branching out into a knotty improvisation, bobbing and weaving in a congenial manner. One of the most interesting tracks on the album is a medley that consists of "Wildwood Flower / Save The Last Dance For Me" where a gentle spacious melody is effortlessly stated at first before moving into the rhythm and blues cover that is unexpected but quite welcome. Frisell's guitar carves up the tune expertly, adding just the right amount of emotion and longing to an expertly performed suite of music. With everything on the table, part of the fun is the wide ranging setlist, where they can develop well articulated jazz standards like "Pannonica" and "Lush Life" into quietly blossoming melodic gems, and juxtapose them against a quirky yet very enjoyable romp through the James Bond theme "You Only Live Twice." It wouldn't be a Bill Frisell album if they didn't dip into Americana themes on "All in Fun," "Red River Valley," before quieting down once again and wrapping up the album with a delicate and beautiful version of "In the Wee Small Hours Of The Morning" where their intricate interplay works well, as they can play slowly and quietly allowing the individual notes to hang in the air like tears from a broken heart. As a whole, his album worked quite well, and Frisell and Morgan are a formidable team, developing a close sense of empathy that allows them to create delicately spun music in this intimate environment. There may not be many sparks flying, but the melodic and thematic development of these songs and the craft on display in their performance more than makes up for it. Epistrophy - amazon.com

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