Getting your hands on a new Bill Frisell CD is a bit like unboxing a gift from a good friend with great taste. So what do we have here? Something intriguing, as it turns out, yet again.
Suffice to say, Harmony is bound to delight many fans who’ve followed the guitarist’s singular and increasingly curious path over the last few decades, even if it lacks the lighthearted tone associated with some of his most engaging sessions. Of course, because Frisell has never been overly concerned with genre distinctions, an innate sense of whimsy still informs his tune choices and original contributions. A quick glance at the songwriters represented here—Stephen Foster and Pete Seeger communing with Lerner and Loewe, Elvis Costello, and Billy Strayhorn—reveals the album’s expansive contours. But what sets Harmony apart, besides the fact that it marks Frisell’s Blue Note album debut as a leader, is the project itself: a “roots music” work commissioned by the FreshGrass Music Festival and featuring vocalist Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts, and Luke Bergman on acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, and bass.