All hail Bill Frisell—the Man, the Myth, the Marksman—but this set had me from “Johnathan Blake.” Gigging in Ravi Coltrane’s band a few years back, the drummer manifested a human fusion reactor, to the point of laying out beat multiplicities with a sweat-drenched towel laid right over his snare. Here he hits cooler, though never cooled off; organically attuned to the other three; putting in, leaving out; laying down his pieces of the jigsaw, but careful to never finish the puzzle, because his incompleteness must overlay incompletenesses from Frisell’s guitar, Gerald Clayton’s piano, Gregory Tardy’s sax and clarinet.
And Frisell shows the outstanding wisdom to just plain lay out in spots. After all, you feel him reasoning, this cooks, this swings, and the fewer-pieces process doesn’t necessarily need the man with the name on the front cover. Parts suggest a warm but lonely Southern night, that Tardy clarinet earnest for a friend while the others murmur concerned in the background: Not much chance, man, not much chance. Tardy switches up horns, sometimes mid-tune, swapping melancholy licorice stick for take-charge tenor.
This is ultimately an area where anyone can use the Frisell tunes to talk, to testify—so long as you understand and respect the room vibe—where anyone (or anyones) can talk back, not talk back, riff on your riffing, or simply sit back. To admire, quietly, how you moved your piece, just that far enough, to let the space shine.