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Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (ECM)

A review of the guitarist's second live album featuring the bassist

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy
The cover of Epistrophy by Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan

Can devotees of guitarist Bill Frisell listen to Epistrophy without connecting a lot of dots? Not likely. Recorded live at Manhattan’s Village Vanguard and prominently featuring bassist Thomas Morgan, these intuitive duets resonate with the signature elements of Frisell’s uncommon discography: the borderless repertoire, the sparse yet inimitable arrangements, the deliberate consideration given to tone, space, and, most important here, shared sensibility.

A follow-up to 2017’s Small Town, recorded in the same setting and yielding similar rewards, Epistrophy reveals such a curious assortment of influences that it could best be described as “Frisellian,” if that view didn’t overlook the significant role Morgan plays. Paul Motian’s mosaic-like “Mumbo Jumbo,” for instance, seems a particularly apt choice given the musicians’ connections with the late drummer, and it swiftly lives up to high expectations. Then, too, there are unexpected gems. For example, the Drifters’ R&B hit “Save the Last Dance for Me,” a Morgan suggestion prefaced by, yep, “Wildwood Flower,” makes for a delightful pivot—think Marty Robbins meets Doc Pomus.

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Mike Joyce

A former editor of JazzTimes, Mike Joyce has written extensively on jazz, blues, country, and pop music for The Washington Post, Maryland and Washington, D.C. public television stations, and other outlets.