Guitarist and 2005 Grammy Award winner Bill Frisell's East/West is a double-disc set featuring two trio performances: Frisell on guitar and Kenny Wolleson on drums and percussion, with Tony Scherr on bass for the East disc, which was recorded at New York's Village Vanguard, and Viktor Krauss on bass for West, recorded at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA.
On East/West Bill Frisell proves once again he is one of the most prolific players of his generation. While it's a measure of his success that he's able to pursue a wide variety of projects, the bottom line is his insatiable musical curiosity warrants all the attention he receives. East/West is a two-disc live set, one recorded on each coast. All are trio performances, with drummer Kenny Wollesen playing throughout, Viktor Krauss on bass in California, Tony Scherr in New York. So supple is the interplay that the stylistic change in the two bassists makes for a subtly different character to each of the nights. Frisell focuses on a mix traditional, folk, and even soul in the west; in the east there's a bit more drawn from the jazz canon (though not entirely, as the version of "Crazy" is a marvel as Scherr sets down his bass and picks up an acoustic guitar). --David Greenberger
This live two-disc set was recorded on the East and West Coasts of the USA. Frisell's repertoire is dominated by standards, some less obvious than others, and peppered with his own dedications to inspirational figures. The guitarist makes a point of refusing to state these melodies obviously, circling around their outskirts and often holding back on their full delivery until the last possible moment.
Disc number one might just have the edge, riled up as it is with a tougher mood. Kenny Wollesen drums on both dates, with Viktor Krauss playing bass on this West disc, which was laid down at Yoshi's club, in Oakland, California. Frisell continues exploring the realms of digital effects boxes, though keeping his manipulations well in check, tweaking with a touch of repeat here, covertly mangling into a backwards splice there.
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" is taken at what must be called a lumbering pace, given a very minimalist treatment. Krauss grumbles out a low bassline, and keeps on walking during the slogging and sleazy "Blues For Los Angeles". Here, Frisell delivers some of his most potent soloing in recent memory, cranked up for a brutal flood. "Boubacar" is dedicated to Boubacar Traore, the guitarist with whom Frisell collaborated on The Intercontinentals album. It doesn't employ any of his Malian stylistic tics, but this is no doubt an intentional avoidance.
The second disc was recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York, with Tony Scherr on bass. This set is more relaxed, with Frisell exploring a semi-acoustic sound. Its opening numbers are "My Man's Gone Now" and "Days Of Wine And Roses", and the house style is suitably straight-ahead. In fact, rarely has Frisell stood so close to mainline jazz tradition. This makes the wonky turn of the brief "You Can Run" and the extended rolling of "Ron Carter" all the more unusual. Frisell emphasises each micrometer of the melody, ending up with a mimicking of chiming bells, accompanied by groany bass-bowing. The trio surprise again as they suddenly slam into a bone-pulverising interlude, then back to tender sluggishness, as Frisell operates the eternal twang lever on "Goodnight Irene".
The guitarist is now entering an unpredictable career phase, where each new album is embarking on a different journey, sometimes delving back to prior concerns, and sometimes looking for new adventures. This is the one where Frisell grabs his axe roughly by the neck, and subjects it to every loving-position in the book, all the while exposed by an obsessive zoom lens, his trio partners leaving him ample space to preen. --Martin Longley
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