52 Jazz Tracks for 2021 (24. ‘Rag’ – Bill Frisell, This Land, 1992)

The 24th of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE), perhaps the most influential guitar player of the last decades.

Bill Frisell This Land album cover

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Much of Bill Frisell’s later work finds him digging deeper into songs he heard when much younger. He says if you liked it decades ago, and still do, then it may have lasting value: pretty much the premise of this little series. But I do think the work from this earlier period, towards the end of his magical trio with Joey Baron and Kermit Driscoll, was special.

Call it mid-period Frisell, but perhaps his mature style really came together here. And in those days he did seem to write, well, particularly tuneful tunes. Rag is a great example. It’s highly organised – a live trio version follows this arrangement precisely – but, thanks to Baron and Driscoll, and the other players, sounds as loose and swinging as you could wish for.

Those other players are crucial. Don Byron’s sprightly clarinet is joined by Billy Drewes on alto sax and Curtis Fowlkes on trombone. Frisell’s guitar is even more brilliantly effective when set alongside a few orchestrally imagined horns like this.

And Rag is also a good example of Frisell’s style. I’ve tried to describe what makes that style intriguing before on this site – see this review from about ten years ago. The recordings from this period have the same appeal. There’s a constantly teasing combination of elements that all the players embrace completely. Pure delight every time.

LINKS: Listen on Spotify
Buy MP3s from Nonesuch Records
More on this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log

Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series
Week 23: Soweto – Abdullah Ibrahim and Carlos Ward
Spotify playlist for the series

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