Small Town presents guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan in a program of duets, the poetic chemistry of their playing captured live at New York s hallowed Village Vanguard. Small Town sees Frisell and Morgan pay homage to jazz elder Lee Konitz with his Subconscious Lee, and there are several country/blues-accented Frisell originals, including the hauntingly melodic title track. The duo caps the set with an inimitable treatment of John Barry's famous James Bond theme Goldfinger.
Lagrimas Mexicana is a completely unique collection of songs that draws heavily from traditional Latin and Brazilian rhythms, and weds them to 21st century jazz improvisation and sonic effects in a luxuriant braid of colors, textures, styles, and languages. Having known one another for 25 years, Brazilian guitarist, songwriter, and percussionist Vinicius Cantuaria and American guitarist Bill Frisell have occasionally played on one another's albums. Lagrimas Mexicana is an ambitious yet utterly accessible album that would have been just as at home on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label. It is at once warm, sexy, and visionary. It presents two different yet very complementary artists in a collaboration that borders on brilliant.
This relatively early set from Bill Frisell is a fine showcase for the utterly unique guitarist. Frisell has the ability to play nearly any extroverted style of music and his humor (check out the date's "Music I Heard") is rarely far below the surface. This particular quintet (with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, tuba player Bob Stewart, electric bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Paul Motian) is not exactly short of original personalities and their outing (featuring seven Frisell compositions) is one of the most lively of all the ones in the ECM catalog.
While Bill Frisell has released plenty of albums under his own name, this is his first true solo album – the first on which he plays all of the instruments himself. These include electric and acoustic guitar, six-string banjo, and bass, as well as the occasional looped sample. To call the music he creates on this album "introspective" would be something of an understatement. This won't come as a complete surprise to his fans – there has always been a gentle and meditative quality to his music, and even when he's gotten wild with his trio or with downtown pals like John Zorn or Vernon Reid, those moments of abrasive abandon have always seemed like detours from his more natural, but no less inventive and interesting, sweetness and good humor.
The defining characteristic of any given jazz musician is frequently his sound. The more control a player has over the nature of that sound, the more likely he is to project a distinctive musical personality.
This 1987 date teams the iconoclastic pianist with guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Paul Motian, and British saxophonist John Surman. While it's easy to argue that, with Manfred Eicher's icy, crystalline production, this was a stock date for both the artists and the label, that argument would be flat wrong. Bley was looking for a new lyricism in his own playing and in his compositions. He was coming from a different place than the large harmonies offered by augmented and suspended chords and writing for piano trios. The other band members – two other extremely lyrical improvisers in Surman and Frisell.
Kenny Wheeler is among the most lyrically commanding yet daring of modern trumpeters. There's a palpable ease of execution, and a poignant human quality, to his distinctive timbre, as on the title tune where his fluttering descents into the lower register, the cracked yet powerful vocal inflections, and the sudden emission of high harmonics suggest a whistling column of air slowly leaking from a balloon. And from the moody Spanish tinge of "Present Past" to the raga-ish Nordic gravity of "Unti," alto player Lee Konitz matches Wheeler's lyric ease with a singing sound and rhythmic buoyancy all his own.