Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bill Frisell - Blues Dream

For those who have been wondering where Mr. Bill's musical wanderings would lead him in the wake of his first solo CD, Ghost Town, Blues Dream provides the ambitious answer. Nearly all Frisell's fascinations are here: the pastoralism of Have a Little Faith, a Nashville tinge, and the cinematic sounds of Quartet. There's also the electronic loop atmospheres of his ECM and early Elektra years and the alternating Ellingtonian and Salvation Army horns of his quintet period. All of this melded into 18 new compositions commissioned by the Walker Arts Center. A textural richness comes courtesy of Greg Leisz's various guitars backing Frisell's own guitar and a stunning integration of three horns: Curtis Fowlkes's trombone, Ron Miles's trumpet, and Billy Drewes's saxophones. As you listen to this string of broad-shouldered pieces, tributes to greats like Ron Carter, and strangely blues-inflected soundscapes, it's apparent that the solos of Ghost Town</I> can operate as a sort of sketch or "cartoon" for this, the full painting; or a short that is then expanded into a feature. Frisell's career is taking on the aspect of a well-crafted movie or novel that explores different story lines before bringing them together for the finale (and this might be the prelude to the finale). by Michael Ross

From the beginning of Blues Dream, the listener knows that something special is going on. The spare notes of Ron Miles' trumpet and the relaxed guitar work of Greg Leisz lay the groundwork for a spacious sound on the title cut. This openness remains throughout the album, even when alto and trombone are added into the mix. The instrumental "Ron Carter" begins with the loose, electrified feel of an early Miles Davis fusion piece, with Bill Frisell's distorted guitar exploring the space of the piece without resorting to excessive volume. The short and sweet "Pretty Stars Were Made to Shine" leans heavier on the country side, with steel guitar and Chet Atkins' fingerpicking dominating. The arrangements on Blues Dream are a big change from last year's solo effort, Ghost Town. An essential part of the overall sound is Leisz' steel guitar and lap steel work. He also played with Frisell on Good Dog, Happy Man, and helps to set the mood and pace throughout Blues Dream. Ron Miles plays a smaller role, but it is fascinating how well his relaxed trumpet, with its carefully chosen notes, fits into the mix on the title cut and the short "Episode." Blues Dream is a perfectly chosen title: the material, steeped in the blues, is approached in a lazy, dreamlike fashion. Frisell's fondness for putting unusual combinations of instruments together adds to the overall effect, leaving the listener to wonder why no one has ever tried this before. Blues Dream is a lovely release that should satisfy Frisell fans as well as jazz, country, and blues fans looking for a genre-bending experience. - by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., AMG

Artist: Bill Frisell
Album: Blues Dream
Year: 2001
Label: Nonesuch
Runtime: 61:58

1.  Blues Dream 2:31
2.  Ron Carter 6:45
3.  Pretty Flowers Were Made For Blooming 3:20
4.  Pretty Stars Were Made To Shine 1:41
5.  Where Do We Go? 5:21
6.  Like Dreamers Do (Part One) 1:34
7.  Like Dreamers Do (Part Two) 2:37
8.  Outlaws 4:18
9.  What Do We Do? 7:08
10.  Episode 0:49
11.  Soul Merchant 2:43
12.  Greg Leisz 6:14
13.  The Tractor 2:27
14.  Fifty Years 1:31
15.  Slow Dance 3:11
16.  Things Will Never Be The Same 4:49
17.  Dream On 3:06
18.  Blues Dream (Reprise) 1:53
All compositions by Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell (Electric Guitar, acoustic Guitar, Loops)
Greg Leisz (Pedal Steel Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, National Steel Guitar, Mandolin)
Ron Miles (Trumpet)
Billy Drewes (Alto Saxophone)
David Piltch (Double Bass)
Kenny Wollesen (Drums, Percussion)
Curtis Fowlkes (Trombone)


  1. My single favorite Frisell recording, thank you for giving it an outing here. Also an exquisite case where the cover art is absolutely un-improvable in the way it captures the sublime spirt of the music.



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