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Ghost Town

Bill Frisell

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Album Review

While Bill Frisell has released plenty of albums under his own name, this is his first true solo album — the first on which he plays all of the instruments himself. These include electric and acoustic guitar, six-string banjo, and bass, as well as the occasional looped sample. To call the music he creates on this album "introspective" would be something of an understatement. This won't come as a complete surprise to his fans — there has always been a gentle and meditative quality to his music, and even when he's gotten wild with his trio or with downtown pals like John Zorn or Vernon Reid, those moments of abrasive abandon have always seemed like detours from his more natural, but no less inventive and interesting, sweetness and good humor. But there's a darkness around the edges this time out that is unusual, as if he's lonely playing by himself and a little bit unnerved at the thoughts and feelings he's being forced to face on his own. His rendition of the A.P. Carter classic "Wildwood Flower" starts out with an extended Delta-blues introduction, which is a pretty unusual choice. There are other cover versions, including Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now," both of which deeply explore the emotional wreckage described by the songs' lyrics; his own compositions, such as the vaguely surfy "Variation on a Theme" and the slightly ominous "Big Bob," seem to be cut out of similar cloth. There are moments of light relief, such as the gently lovely title track and the brief banjo interlude "Fingers Snappin' and Toes Tappin'," but the overall mood here is relatively dark, though consistently beautiful.

Biography

Born: 18 March 1951 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The defining characteristic of any given jazz musician is frequently his sound. The more control a player has over the nature of that sound, the more likely he is to project a distinctive musical personality. For example, a saxophonist has virtually unlimited physical control of the sound that comes through his horn, and therefore a wide range of tonal expression at his command, which partially explains the disproportionate number of saxophonists in the pantheon of great jazz musicians. On the other...
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Ghost Town, Bill Frisell
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