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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Cryptogramophone

Jazz - Released March 16, 2015 | Songlines

Booklet
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The music from Richter 858 was originally commissioned and recorded to accompany a book of paintings by Gerhard Richter, which was only available in limited quantities back in 2002. Tony Reif of Songlines decided to rescue the recordings from obscurity, and re-released them in early 2005. The band is Frisell on guitar and delay, Eyvind Kang on viola, Jenny Scheinman on violin, and Frisell's old bandmate Hank Roberts on cello. The pieces were directly inspired by a specific painting, and recorded live to two-track with no editing or overdubs. In the booklet are thoughts and guidelines given to Frisell by producer David Breskin and an interview on the subject with Frisell, and they shed a great deal of light on the process of how this music was created. Since art is, of course, a subjective thing, you may or may not feel that the music directly relates to the paintings, but there's no denying that this is a fascinating project. The majority of the songs are built on simple repeated figures, and the players all seem free to embellish and improvise on top of that. Frisell's delays play a major role in this music (Breskin points out that Richter's technique of applying a squeegee to wet oil paint is analogous to Frisell "smearing" notes by manipulating his delay), and the way he uses the delayed guitar signal to complement, and in some cases mimic, the strings is quite amazing (remember, this was done live with no editing). It's been years since Frisell has made such extensive use of the delay, but he's still an absolute master. There is also a minimalist quality to the pieces, but the interplay between guitar, delay and strings keeps them from becoming static. Most of this album is quite serene and beautiful, although there are a couple of hairier moments. The paintings themselves are also reproduced in the booklet, and also as enhanced content on the disc itself, which is encoded for Super Audio playback. This is a very interesting new sound for Bill Frisell, and apparently this band is developing more music together outside the scope of the original project. Recommended. © Sean Westergaard /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 3, 2004 | Terminus Records

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Jazz - Released April 1, 2002 | Rhombus Records

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Country - Released August 12, 2003 | Terminus Records

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Country - Released June 19, 2001 | Terminus Records

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Jazz - Released February 26, 2013 | Tzadik

For all the self-generated hype that Tzadik releases carry on their spine inserts, the one that accompanies Bill Frisell's Silent Comedy is pretty close to accurate. This really is the guitarist as you've never heard him before -- at least on record. He's improvising live in a studio with no edits or overdubs. Some of the 11 pieces included here carry traces of his signature bell-like tone, but this is a very free recording. The set's longest cut, "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home," is a meld of spaced-out sonic effects, harmonic invention, skeletal phrasing, and aggressive skronk that moves from halting melody to pure dissonance. Despite "Lake Superior"'s pastoral title, the cut is anything but; it's a monstrous Wall of Sound with digital and analog effects meddling around on a drone and employing a full range of distortion and feedback. Using a very limited harmonic palette, Frisell's guitar alternately takes on the tones of a harmonium, a Wurlitzer, and chimes to offer elemental sound contrasts that almost feel like counterpoint -- all in a gorgeous wail. While "Proof" is more conventional, with Frisell's instantly recognizable tone investigating a vamp from all sorts of musical viewpoints, the very next cut, "The Road," utilizes a broad array of tools in his effects box to create a restrained drone as the tonal backdrop, while a wah-wah offers a repetitive bassline melody but then breaks it down to an alternating series of small, moment-to-moment chord voicings, shimmering single notes, spacious delays, and even rumbling lower-string cascades woven together in a seamless fit. In the title track and in "Leprechaun," those effects are used with a requisite warmth and sense of humor. While "Ice Cave" walks a little too close to ambience for its own sake, "Big Fish" combines it with an inherent sense of melodic invention to create a tune that is nearly hummable, but traverses a fascinating musical terrain. This set will most likely appeal to guitar and improv freaks, as well as Frisell's most devoted fans. That said, given its intimate nature, it should resonate wider and deeper than that. He is doing things -- on the fly -- with his electric guitar and effects boxes that feel more like a conversation with a listener than merely an expression himself for his own sake. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

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Bill Frisell in the magazine