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Bill Frisell/Dave Holland/Elvin Jones: Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones

It’s nice and cozy and pretty here in Bill Frisell’s guitarland. The presence of bassist Dave Holland and drummer Elvin Jones may lead you to anticipate some aggression, some conflicts, but they don’t happen. Frisell’s playing is like rich, fancy desserts. His eclectic improvised lines are simple melodies with a lot of frosting, for he decorates them in pretty chords and accompanies them with more overdubbed chords. His phrases tend to come from blues and folk music, rather than from jazz; his tunes are simple-sometimes there’s just one chord and no changes. They’re mostly originals on this CD, apart from the waltz “Moon River” and Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times,” which is played with little variation but plenty of a la mode chords. The bass accompaniment dances through the tunes and Holland occasionally plays a solo that’s welcome for being straightforward and melodic, in the midst of Frisell’s effusive ornateness.

Most of the pieces require drumming so simplified that you wonder why the complex, original Jones was hired-except that once in awhile he does play a little contrary rhythm. He and Frisell also split a biting chorus, Herbie Nichols Trio-style, on “Convict 13,” before it turns into a cozy, painless, sorrowless blues. Jones also plays an active solo intro to “Again,” a meandering free improvisation that’s the one failure here. The trio cooks modestly on “Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa” and again on the samba “Smilin’ Jones,” the one fast piece. “Strange Meeting” isn’t strange at all, just pleasant, in a minor key, and, uh, while it’s playing, I’ll have another piece of cake, please…

Originally Published