History, Mystery

History, Mystery

5.0 1
by Bill Frisell
     
 
For a minimalist, Bill Frisell sure gives us a lot to chew on. His new History, Mystery, is a double-disc set that finds the innovative guitarist and composer delving into familiar territory, but with enough tangy twists to lend surprise. Frisell has been called the anti–guitar hero, and for good reason. Over the course of a four-decade career, he’s pared down his

Overview

For a minimalist, Bill Frisell sure gives us a lot to chew on. His new History, Mystery, is a double-disc set that finds the innovative guitarist and composer delving into familiar territory, but with enough tangy twists to lend surprise. Frisell has been called the anti–guitar hero, and for good reason. Over the course of a four-decade career, he’s pared down his playing to often skeletal proportions, yet paradoxically, his economic approach is all the more expressive and satisfying for it. Frisell loves to solo as much as the next guitar genius, but he tends to confine expansive outings to albums featuring his own working trios and the canny small group he’s shared with drummer Paul Motian and saxophonist Joe Lovano for the past 25 years. On History, Mystery he scores his most trenchant points through suggestive melody and textural arrangements. Given a larger ensemble -- here Frisell employs compact string and horn sections that include such sympathetic collaborators as violinist Jenny Scheinman, trumpeter Ron Miles, and saxophonist Greg Tardy -- he can delve into his deep sonic universe, culling freely from jazz, folk, blues, and world musics. The guitarist has a knack for writing modest yet fulsomely evocative melodies that register instantly, yet as a card-carrying eclectic, Frisell is always ready to toss curve balls. Among his spaciously conceived originals he slips in Thelonious Monk’s "Jacky-ing," Lee Konitz’s "Subconscious Lee," and Sam Cooke’s "A Change Is Gonna Come," as if to warn, "Label me at your own peril." No chance of it, Bill.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
History, Mystery is among Bill Frisell's most eclectic yet accessible projects. Produced by longtime ally Lee Townsend, this double-disc, 90-minute, 30-piece suite encompasses the full range of Frisell's musical past and his influences, obsessions, and storylike vision. It is performed by a star-studded octet that includes trumpeter Ron Miles, saxophonist Greg Tardy, and a string section featuring Eyvind Kang, Jenny Scheinman, and Hank Roberts, with bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen in the rhythm section. History, Mystery dances across entire musical landscapes: bebop/post-bop, Malian folk music, tangos, Delta blues, modern classical music, vintage soul, and rock. The source material for this recording was compiled from a multimedia collaboration with artist Jim Woodring called Mysterio Sympatico in 2002 and recorded during a tour. The rest was recorded for Stories from the Heart of the Land, a 2007 series on National Public Radio. Frisell composed most of this work, but his own "history" is revealed in his choice of covers: Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," "Jackie-Ing" by Thelonious Monk, "Sub-Conscious Lee" by Lennie Tristano, and "Baba Drame" by Malian guitar legend Boubacar Traoré. The sense of "mystery" is in just how these various sources are melded in a multi-textured tapestry of sound. Balance for this work is achieved in the strength of its arrangements, and the glue that binds them together is the string section. Its role is pivotal: it anchors the listener through its many stylistic and textural changes. The notion of "history" here is also revealed in the way songs are juxtaposed. For instance, a soul tune like "A Change Is Gonna Come" actually precedes a knotty yet swinging bop number like "Jackie-Ing." Non-American sources are cited, too. The nuevo tango-inspired "Probability Cloud" is the theme that bookends disc one. It begins as a digital guitar soundscape before an Astor Piazzolla-inspired tango comes to the fore in the strings. Traoré's droning desert blues "Baba Drame" features an interlude that evokes late-19th century Spanish folk music, itself inspired by the chants and sung prayers of the Moors centuries before. Disc two engages themes, departures, and returns in numerous ways: the haunting, near-ambient "Monroe," with guitar and viola in the forefront; the spectral "Lazy Robinson" that floats between carnival music and modern classical composition with a rock backbeat (in waltz tempo); and the two-part "Answer," a strange, nightmarish, and disorienting sketch where the strings play an actual counterforce to Frisell's guitar. The music here is very adventurous and exploratory yet completely accessible. "Faces," with its traces of Gil Evans and Igor Stravinsky, contrasts wonderfully with the tough bebop in "Sub-Conscious Lee" (itself furthered by Scheinman's violin referencing Stéphane Grapelli's Gypsy swing). "Waltz for Baltimore" places the grittiness of Tardy's guttural rhythm & blues honk against Frisell's elegant, modernist jazz chords; they are both made slightly surreal by Scheinman's violin, playing a minimal loop that bridges and yet displaces eras in ether. History, Mystery is an ambitious work; it's full of elliptical, riveting moments, shape-shifting colors, and multivalent textures. Frisell's inherent love of formal lyricism, expansive harmonics, and divergent musical histories reflects his tireless passion for tracing sources. In composing his own material, he also interprets and arranges his sources. On History, Mystery he achieves musical alchemy; he creates something new from familiar, exotic, and even forgotten forms, providing listeners with a magical aural experience.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/13/2008
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597994377
catalogNumber:
435964
Rank:
8586

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bill Frisell   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Loops
Hank Roberts   Cello
Ron Miles   Cornet
Tony Scherr   Bass
Greg Tardy   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Kenny Wollesen   Drums
Eyvind Kang   Viola
Jenny Scheinman   Violin

Technical Credits

Sam Cooke   Composer
Lee Konitz   Composer
Bill Frisell   Composer,Liner Notes,Loop
Russ Lee   Cover Photo
Thelonious Monk   Composer
Lee Townsend   Producer
Boubacar Traoré   Composer
Shawn Pierce   Engineer
Jim Woodring   Liner Notes
Claudia Engelhart   Live Sound
Ronen Givony   Editorial Coordinator

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History, Mystery 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Open it up to possibilities...musical sounds that also make you feel. This is musical artistry at its best. Mr. Frisell is a genius who's gifts we will forever cherish. This CD will take you on a tour like no other. Music that will touch your heart, your soul and your mind.