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Monday, July 01, 2019

CD Review: Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan - Epistrophy

Bill Frisell (guitar); Thomas Morgan (double bass).
(Review by Chris).

A curious ECM offering in the seldom-heard format of a guitar/double bass duo, recorded live at the Village Vanguard, NYC. The guitar is in the experienced hands of the veteran ECM house guitarist of the 80s, Bill Frisell, the bass in the capable hands of the younger Thomas Morgan, whose prolific output includes a lush contribution to the recent stylish Avec Le Temps with Giovanni Guidi

The album comprises varied covers, with the title track and Pannonica by Thelonious Monk at the core. Epistrophy emerges from seemingly random off-kilter plucking and strumming, and epitomizes Frisell’s sophisticated, oblique approach here. Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life and All in Fun by Kern/Hammerstein  are of an even older vintage and receive a more delay-laden treatment, as does a stately version of You Only Live Twice, all well received by the audience.  Paul Motian’s Mumbo Jumbo is more free fiddly fretwork, with tricky timing tossed in for good measure.

Overall, not a groundbreaking release, more of a low key listen for the guitar geek or dinner party. I have to say I was disappointed, not having listened much to Frisell since the 80’s when I had him down as the unpredictable one of three US “fusion” guitarists (with Abercombie and Scofield). Nowadays he has a reputation for “noodling”, but back in the day he was less restrained and his oblique lines meshed excitingly in contrast with angular and more brutal bandmates, such as on the excellent 1988 Look Out For Hope.   

I won’t be making the trip, but he plays London's Cadogan Hall in October - I’m sure he’ll be compelling live. 
Chris Kilsby
Available now on ECM 2626
Buy/see here. 

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