Bill Frisell | Valentine Review
By Griff Stevens
Guitarist Bill Frisell is back and for the first time with a trio for his new Blue Note Records album Valentine. The trio is bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston. Valentine was produced by Lee Townsend, who has produced the great majority of Frisell’s albums over the past 30 years and recorded by Tucker Martine at Flora Recording in Portland, Oregon. The trio explores thirteen songs that mixes new and old Frisell originals, jazz standards, traditional songs, and covers. “This album is all about Rudy and Thomas and the musical relationship I have with them,” says Frisell. “We’ve played a lot for a number of years, but there was no evidence of it, so I really wanted to have a document of it, if only to show that it’s real and not this magical thing that I’ve imagined in my fantasies.” Townsend explains, “All three of these musicians have a deep sense of structure along with their exploratory approach to making music, so they can elaborate but never move too far away from what they need to do to serve the song. This trio is a sterling example of balancing that architectural sensibility with the spirit of spontaneity at the same time.”
“Baba Drame” is one of the highlights of the album. “Baba Drame” has a funky straight-eight feel. Morgan and Royston create a rhythmic space for Frisell’s multi-layered guitar style to live and flourish in. Frisell’s playing and musical ideas are consistent in direction and color on this track. The trio does interact beautifully, especially Royston. His drumming is the main energetic component of the selection, and his interaction with Frisell and Morgan is the highlight.
“Keep Your Eyes Open” is a relaxed soundscape of musical colors, which Frisell is known for. His use of double-stops and chord colors is always impressive. The melody is played while he accompanies himself with textures and chords. The feel is always maintained by Morgan and Royston, both follow the colors and give the form shape in a musical way that makes the song come to life. Frisell is a player that needs musicians around him to push the energy and textures. Though his playing has many layers, he is a very low energy performer, but that is the power of a trio working to create a musical moment.
Valentine is a new chapter in the Frisell catalog. The song choices flow, and the textures the trio create are the beauty of the whole project. The chemistry between the three is one of respect, deep listening, and musical creativity. Pushing the fringe of jazz with influences of country music has just moved up a notch with Valentine.
Date First Available : August 14, 2020
Manufacturer : Blue Note Records