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Sign of Life (Bonus Track Version)

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iTunes Review

Guitarist Bill Frisell has been mining Americana for years now, building on jazz, blues, country, classical, folk, and other traditions. 2011’s Sign of Life presents 17 originals for the 858 Quartet, a group that includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, and cellist Hank Roberts. The pieces here display the refinement of chamber music, the warmth of folk, and the pleasures of focused improvisation. “It’s a Long Story, Pt. 1” brings to mind a meeting of Curtis Mayfield and country music on a warm summer evening. The title track is a modernist composition that leans toward the mellow rather than the astringent. (One is reminded that the group’s instrumentation is that of a string quartet, with guitar replacing one of the violins.) The jaunty “Suitcase In My Hand” chugs along with guitar and fiddle tossing in blues and bluegrass licks. “Sixty Four” evokes minimalism without the sense of urgency associated with that propulsive style. A pair of miniatures works nicely: “Painter” creates a sense of mystery with a handful of notes while “Teacher” bristles with agitated energy.

Customer Reviews

Frisell Chamber Music

There are several distinct sub-genres within Bill Frisell's catalog, and from his most recent work, Sign of Life is similar to Disfarmer. With the 858 Quartet, Frisell's distinct guitar sound is surrounded by violin, viola, and cello. The compositions are also very recognizably Frisell, where each little melody evolves from repetitive vamps, improvised arrangements, and explorations by the quartet. After just a few listens, I've found myself singing the melodies to myself. Highly recommended for all the Frisell fans out there.


Born: March 18, 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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