Royal Toast (2010) by The Claudia Quintet

Categories: 2010 and Music.

We’re at a time when all genres blend together and bleed into one another. This record is a perfect example of that: there’s music that could be jazz-influenced chamber music, there’s music that sounds freely improvised, there’s music that sounds like jazz, but also sounds like it was completely written in advance (and rehearsed a lot). The music itself ranges from quite pleasant chamber music to lively, intricate, windy jazz fusion type stuff (albeit with very different instrumentation than is usual for jazz fusion), to pretty free stuff. It’s a great combination of stuff, showing off the versatility of the Read More

The Sound of Summer Running (1998) by Marc Johnson

Categories: 1998 and Music.

So this is about as conventional, straight-head Metheny-esque jazz fusion as I could possibly imagine. And that’s just a little surprising given the presence of both Metheny and Frisell, who one would assume would push each other. Johnson does not in any way stand out to my ears as a composer, and the band, which should be awesome, never makes me sit back in wonder. I also feel like I have heard this way too much on Toronto’s jazz radio station Jazz 91, which plays jazz. Jazz! And I feel this way even though I’m quite sure I’ve never heard Read More

Unspeakable (2004) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I think there is a real tendency to look at a few of the moments on this disc – when Frisell really lets loose in the ways he can – and decide that this is some kind of return to form – for those people who do not enjoy his Americana obsession. My problem isn’t with his playing – though occasionally he does play it too straight – it’s more with the music surrounding his playing. I’m all for artists taking risks and this is a real curve ball given the kind of music he had mostly been making over Read More

Live (1991, 1995) by Bill Frisell, Kermit Driscoll, Joey Baron

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I think this live album embodies everything I think post-modern (or post-Hendrix) guitar playing should be: Frisell is all over the place within the same songs, throwing out all sorts of different techniques, tones, effects, styles totally arbitrarily. But he is just such a good player, and the band is so locked in behind him that it doesn’t matter that he does what he wants. This is what I want to hear: a talented guitarist doing whatever he wants, seemingly on whim. And when he returns to the song, the band play as if the song – rather than Frisell Read More

The Elephant Sleeps but Still Remembers (2006) by Jack DeJohnette with Bill Frisell

Categories: 2006 and Music.

I’m not really sure I understand this. It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of using live tracks as the basis for studio tinkering – I’m not, some of my favourite prog rock was made this way. I just don’t always understand why it’s done. In this case, it feels like the “additional production” was added to give this set a greater unity, that it severely lacks. DeJohnette is clearly a talented guy, and I appreciate the attempt to do everything, but here he and Frisell are trying too much and not succeeding at enough. The studio touches feel Read More

Beautiful Dreams (2010) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2010 and Music.

I can’t help myself and keep wondering about how jazz this is. It’s sort of an odd approach to jazz, as it’s more seemingly about a jam or a vibe than it is about improvisation, at least to my ears. But that doesn’t remove its fascination for me: one of the early tracks could almost be prog – if that was improvised, I am very surprised – and the whole thing seems to exist in this odd space between jazz and rock and some other genres, while clearly sounding like it should be jazz. I guess this is where we’ve Read More

History, Mystery (2008) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2008 and Music.

There is a part of me that wants to go a little overboard on the acclaim here, and I think the only thing holding me back is something I always nitpick over: some tracks are performed by the bull band, and some are not. That’s pretty stupid of me, but I can’t help myself. So that aside…This is an incredible instrumental survey – almost an non-narrative or anti-narrative – of numerous genres from the United States and around the world that manages to be blended into one long sometimes-cohesive-sounding musical statement. It’s incredible and I should think it one of Read More

Strange Liberation (2004) by Dave Douglas (featuring Bill Frisell)

Categories: 2004 and Music.

This is a very solid “post-fusion” album, you might say. I say post-fusion because this is mainstream jazz that has been made in the awareness of fusion (and free to some extent, as well) but it is hardly readily identifiable as fusion. Everything here is great: the tunes, the playing, the moods. The one problem is that it isn’t exactly new. 8/10 Read More

Keystone (2005) by Dave Douglas

Categories: 2005 and Music.

This is only the second time I have personally heard turntables incorporated with jazz. The first time was by a Canadian drummer named Jerry Granelli back in 1999 or something. So that clearly beats this by a few years. And they went more deep into the hip hop influence, including spoken word posing as rap. But Douglas’ strength lies in recognizing the traditions he works within and without so this album is significantly more recognizable as jazz than Granelli’s venture into whatever this turntabilist jazz genre is. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It certainly makes Read More


Categories: 2011 and Music.

Before I get into it, I will say first off that I like this music. I generally like fusion (the idea that this is “instrumental hip hop” is more than a little hilarious, if this isn’t jazz then I don’t know what it is) that stays away from “cool jazz” cliches, as this does. But (and it’s a big but): I think one of the main reasons I cannot get into hip hop is the hyping / bragging that is a central part of it. I don’t even like that stuff in rock and roll (but I can handle it Read More