Bill Frisell – Four (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 57:48 minutes | 1,07 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Blue Note Records
Like your favorite shrink or therapy dog, the jazz guitarist and composer Bill Frisell’s work has a calming effect even when it’s wrestling with difficult situations. An expert player known for his shimmering guitar tone, Frisell earned his earliest attention on Eberhard Weber’s sublime 1979 album for ECM, Fluid Rustle, and in the decades since has played with luminaries including Chet Baker, John Zorn, Ginger Baker, Marianne Faithfull and Caetano Veloso.The guitarist has been notably prolific, maintaining a four-decade relationship with ECM while also working with Nonesuch, Savoy Jazz, Tzadik and dozens more. All told, Frisell has released 88 (give or take) solo and collaborative albums. His new one, Four, is his second for Blue Note.
Such productivity can be an albatross, though. News that a new Bill Frisell quartet album has arrived likely won’t blindside anyone, even if Four itself will gobsmack those who hit play, nudge up the volume and intently listen to an artist and his trio of new collaborators stretching out. Featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, drummer Johnathan Blake and frequent Frisell collaborator Greg Tardy on saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, the crisp, clear 13-track album embraces the notion of a standard quartet—but does so without a key instrument, the double bass.
In notes accompanying the release, Frisell said that he entered the studio with snippets of ideas and tapped musical chemistry to do the heavy lifting. Calling them “these little signposts that we can hit together,” he described a process featuring “minimal information,” but built to work as “a structure—a jungle gym that we’re all climbing around.” That they do so with gymnastic grace shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to Frisell.
Four was born, as is true of a lot of current records, during the most isolating period of the pandemic. For Frisell, the period hit especially hard when a life-long friend and collaborator died in early 2020 after contracting COVID-19. The first single on Four, “Waltz for Hal Willner,” is dedicated to the producer and SNL music director, who hired Frisell more than four decades ago to guest on a string of themed tribute albums to Nino Rota, Charles Mingus and the music of early Disney movies; they went on to collaborate on dozens of projects.
A lovely piano-driven theme-and-variation piece, “Waltz for Hal Willner” travels from Clayton’s opening melody and through his collaborators’ muses until all are reflecting in unison. Though Frisell’s playing is less prominent in the mix than it perhaps should be, his contemplative lines connect horn, drum and piano with the precision of a Savile Row tailor.
Four, in fact, is rich with precise reflection. Frisell’s pieces quote American standards, tease and adapt four- and eight-bar runs that sound borrowed from other eras. The slow-rolling, noir-ish “Lookout for Hope” moves as if West Coast jazz luminary Gerry Mulligan were casting a Pacific breeze over the session from the great hereafter. Those not in the know might think that the Frisell-penned “Monroe” was a long lost post-bop standard.
Frisell and band close the album with the mesmerizing “Dog on a Roof,” the second of two songs, along with “Good Dog, Happy Man,” to celebrate our canine friends. Though Frisell hasn’t said as much, given the solitude that begat the pieces on Four, it’s easy to imagine the guitarist in quarantine mode, absorbing the losses he, and all of us, endured, while at his feet a very, very good dog offered solace and undying love.
1-01. Bill Frisell – Dear Old Friend (for Alan Woodard) (02:25)
1-02. Bill Frisell – Claude Utley (05:15)
1-03. Bill Frisell – The Pioneers (05:42)
1-04. Bill Frisell – Holiday (03:46)
1-05. Bill Frisell – Waltz for Hal Willner (02:47)
1-06. Bill Frisell – Lookout for Hope (05:09)
1-07. Bill Frisell – Monroe (06:17)
1-08. Bill Frisell – Wise Woman (03:46)
1-09. Bill Frisell – Blues from Before (03:48)
1-10. Bill Frisell – Always (04:13)
1-11. Bill Frisell – Good Dog, Happy Man (03:03)
1-12. Bill Frisell – Invisible (04:49)
1-13. Bill Frisell – Dog on a Roof (06:41)