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Small Town

ECM 574 6341 [68:08]





  1. It Should Have Happened A long Time Ago

  2. Subconscious Lee

  3. Song for Andrew No. 1

  4. Wildwood Flower

  5. Small Town

  6. What A Party

  7. Poet-Pearl

  8. Goldfinger

    Bill Frisell - Guitar

    Thomas Morgan - Double Bass

    Bill Frisell has long been one of the most interesting, idiosyncratic and eclectic musicians in jazz. Over a recording career which began with his ECM debut in 1983, In Line, he has clocked up performances on over 200 discs, around 25 of them as leader. His early guitar influences were Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery and Jimi Hendrix. He had a flying start as far as composition is concerned, having studied as a young man with Mike Gibbs at Berklee College of Music. He has proved to be, also, a proverbial 'man for all genres', drawing at various times on folk themes, country-and-western, soul, rock music, bluegrass and Americana, during his jazz odyssey. He is extravagantly gifted and versatile. Now 66, he has teamed up here with the bassist Thomas Morgan who, though almost half Frisell's age, is no slouch either, having recorded widely since his 2002 debut on disc. Morgan played on Frisell's 2016 album for the Okeh label, When You Wish Upon A Star, but he has had also a batch of recent recordings for ECM, in groups led by the likes of John Abercrombie, Tomasz Stanko, Craig Taborn, Giovanni Guidi and Jakob Bro. In addition, he has his own trio. One further preliminary point. This CD was recorded in front of a live audience at the famed Village Vanguard nightclub on Seventh Avenue in New York City, in March 2016.

    There's a lengthy opening track written by the late Paul Motian, who belonged to Frisell's trio, along with Joe Lovano, way back. It Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago was the title track of the trio album in 1984. Languorous, reflective, the interaction and musicianship of the duo here cannot be faulted. There's a sense of total absorption. The Lee Konitz composition, Subconscious Lee, moves along at a brisk pace and features nimble playing, especially by Morgan. The presence of Konitz himself in the audience added to the sense of occasion. Certainly the piece itself was enthusiastically received. Song For Andrew No. 1 is a strong Frisell tune which was recently included on the ECM album The Declaration Of Musical Independence by the Andrew Cyrille Quartet, of which Bill formed part. This rendition is superb, with beautiful sounds emitting from Frisell's guitar and Morgan giving empathetic support throughout. Wildwood Flower, a classic Carter family number, is a cheerful, accessible track which reflects Frisell's love of country music. Morgan enters fully into the joie de vivre generated by the guitarist and there's some nifty improvisation to be heard. The title track, Small Town, is a further fine Frisell composition featuring relaxed playing of a high order from the guitar maestro, with Morgan the perfect foil. It would be ideal film soundtrack material, possibly in a Western. Fats Domino can be found among the composing credits for What A Party (he also recorded it, of course). In this catchy version, Frisell picks out the tune with characteristic ease and charm. There's more than a nod to rhythm and blues. Morgan is on ebullient form in support of what is a gem. The two musicians share compositional credits for Poet-Pearl, the longest track on the album. It is marked by a measure of understatement but combines the rich sound of the guitar with resonant phrasing from the impressive Morgan. Finally, there's a creative take on a familiar pop classic/James Bond movie theme, Goldfinger.

    I confess to having been a Frisell fan since hearing his work with Kenny Wheeler on Angel Song, an ECM release of over twenty years ago now. He has the capacity to keep reinventing himself and to find fresh ways of expressing 'the sound of surprise', as the critic Whitney Balliett once famously described jazz. Thomas Morgan is an entirely compatible partner in this enterprise. This stimulating album shows what a fertile collaboration this could be. I look forward to more from the duo.

    James Poore


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