Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Music Revelation Ensemble - 1980 - No Wave

Music Revelation Ensemble 
No Wave

01. Time Table 10:00
02. Big Tree 8:45
03. Baby Talk 9:36
04. Sound Check 8:06

Drums, Percussion – Ronald Shannon Jackson
Electric Bass – Amin Ali
Guitar, Vocals – James Blood Ulmer
Tenor Saxophone – David Murray

Recorded at: Studio 57, Düsseldorf, June 1980

James “Blood” Ulmer may well be the only constant in the Music Revelation Ensemble, or MRE. For over 20 years, the self-professed blues preacher has remained the sole permanent member of this ever-shifting group, known as much for mixing up melodics as personnel. This is not to say the pursuit is a sketchy one: Since its 1980 Moers Music release No Wave, featuring Ulmer on guitar, David Murray on tenor saxophone, Amin Ali on electric bass, and Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums, MRE has been fueling the free jazz torch lit by pioneer and Ulmer mentor Ornette Coleman so adeptly that All Music Guide’s Chris Kelsey was moved to call the group “one of the first and best free jazz/funk bands.”

One of the most innovative electric guitarists since Jimi Hendrix, Ulmer is known for pioneering “harmolodics,” defined by Richard Cook in the Penguin Guide to Jazz, as quoted in materials from Ulmer’s publicist, as “a theory which dispenses with the normal hierarchy of ‘lead’ and ‘rhythm’ instruments, allowing free harmonic interchange at all levels of a group.” Ulmer told , “It’s a unison tuning where every string is tuned to the same note, like a one string guitar… It’s total freedom.”

In 1971 Ulmer left for New York and the following year began working with the legendary Coleman, who introduced him to the concept of harmolodics.

In 1978 Ulmer began performing under his own name, often joined by future MRE members Murray and Jackson, who both share Ulmer’s Coleman influence, along with trumpeter Olu Dara and saxophonist Arthur Blythe. MRE was formed two years later.

Jackson began playing drums professionally in Texas. He moved to New York in 1966, where he worked with such jazz luminaries as bassist Charles Mingus, bop saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, and freejazz saxophonist Albert Ayler. In 1975 he joined Coleman’s group Prime Time and began playing with Ulmer in 1979.

Amin Ali brought an impressive pedigree to the group; his father Rashied, also an Ulmer collaborator, had replaced Elvin Jones as saxophonist John Coltrane’s drummer in the 1960s. The younger Ali, who appears on four MRE albums, has also performed with a host of others including Dara, drummer Samm Bennett, and British saxophonist Django Bates. He appears on three of Ulmer’s solo albums as well.

While much of Ulmer’s solo work practiced harmolodics as rooted in the blues, his work with MRE allowed him to explore different terrain. “The purpose was in creating a sound that doesn’t inhibit. A freedom to play within jazz. It was a job to do,” he told Steven Dalachinsky, who wrote the liner notes for MRE’s fourth album, In the Name of the Music Revelation Ensemble...

No Wave was not a universal hit with the critics, however. Graham Flashner and Ira Robbins of the Trouser Press website called it “Ulmer’s most inaccessible work and his least focused.” The band’s rotating lineup had already begun to take shape, with Cornell Rochester replacing Jackson on drums and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, another Prime Time alum, joining Ali on bass. MRE was quiet for the next eight years, until the 1988 release of Music Revelation Ensemble. Jackson returned for this album while Tacuma was the sole bassist..

Released in 1980, after the peak of the short-lived but influential "No Wave" movement -- consisting mainly of punk-affiliated practitioners -- the aptly titled debut No Wave by the free jazz supergroup Music Revelation Ensemble (with James Blood Ulmer on guitar, David Murray on horns, Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums, and Amin Ali on bass) is nothing short of a provocation. Here, four jazz musicians unleash a harmolodic version of No Wave, anchored by Amin Ali's decisive basslines. Ulmer's guitar and Murray's horn swim around Ali's electrified low end, generating wonderfully executed pieces of organized chaos. Save for the more structured and meditative number "Big Tree," the remainder of the album bursts with frenetic energy. By re-appropriating the jazzy subtext of the supposedly non-musical No Wave movement (whose figureheads did include the likes of Arto Lindsay, the saxophonist James Chance, and John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards), the Music Revelation Ensemble here end up "legitimizing" No Wave (jazz was being taught in the academy by the late 1970s) and expanding the original (cultural) conception of that sound and movement beyond its initially provincial and myopic* origins.

*For context, read the 1979 Lester Bangs essay "The White Noise Supremacists"

Defunkt - 1982 - Thermonuclear Sweat

Thermonuclear Sweat

01. Illusion 5:32
02. I Tried To Live Alone 5:06
03. Cocktail Hour (Blue Bossa) 3:27
04. Ooh Baby 6:05
05. Avoid The Funk 4:26
06. Big Bird (Au Private) 2:07
07. For The Love Of Money 5:52
08. Believing In Love 7:12

Bass - Kim Clarke
Drums - Kenny Martin
Guitar - Kelvyn Bell
Guitar - Richard Martin
Guitar - Vernon Reid
Saxophone - Dave Hubbard
Trombone, Lead Vocals - Joseph Bowie
Trumpet - John Mulkerin
Vocals - Clarice Taylor

Joeseph Bowie was a working member of the 70s NYC avant-jazz set when he happened to be in the right place at the right time to be pulled into New York's new up and coming so called punk-jazz scene. Joe first worked with the unintentional originators of this scene, Ornette Coleman and James Ulmer, as a sideman as they introduced a new gritty energetic form of fusion that was an antidote for LA's bland fuzak. After that, Joe worked with one of NYC's first full-blown post-punk jazz poseurs, James White, in one of his many tongue-in-cheek cynical and sarcastic funk ensembles. From there Bowie struck out on his own with his Defunkt group that borrowed from James White's punky ascetic, but introduced far better musicianship and more sincere lyrics and presentation.
Thermo Nuclear Sweat is the second outing for Bowie's Defunkt ensemble, and it finds them already searching for what they might do next when the jazz-punk fad will inevitably fade. Most of this album is fairly similar to the first with a lot of raw funk tunes played with punkish abandon and avant jazz chops, but the wave of trendy enthusiasm that gave the first album a lot of propulsion is starting to show signs of doubt on this second outing. In the ever changing NYC music scene, post punk irony is about to be replaced by the more spartan hardcore scene and Defunkt's funky pork pie hats will be replaced by Last Exit's brutal primal scream in the world of avant-jazz rock. Surely a bad sign is the fact that Defunkt includes two classic jazz tunes on here that are passed off as post-punk lounge ironica, when in fact the band just copped out and fell back on the standard working tunes of their jazz days because they were running out of ideas.

The big plus on here is the guitar work of Vernon Reid who plays wacky deconstructionist solos on the jazz tunes, and searing psychedelia on the mostly instrumental rock-funk number Ooh Baby. Joeseph is great on the trombone as usual, but he can't sing and neither can the rest of his group with their almost shouted back-ups. The repetitive almost spoken monotone 'beatnik' vocals are always a minus with this band. Defunkt would have been a lot more powerful with a real singer. Anyway, overall this is a fun album and a great time capsule of NYC club life in the early 80s.

This is incredibly good jazz funk and this is the record that really got me interested in the genre. The funk comes through with the rhythms laid down on bass and drums. The soloists on guitar, trombone, trumpet are brilliant throughout. 
Thermonuclear Sweat_ is the condition that results after cranking this.

Defunkt - 1980 - Defunkt


01. Make Them Dance 7:57
02. Strangling Me With Your Love 4:05
03. In The Good Times 4:26
04. Blues 3:03
05. Defunkt 6:21
06. Thermonuclear Sweat 3:43
07. Melvin's Tune 2:37
08. We All Dance Together 5:40

Vocals, Trombone – Joseph Bowie
Bass – Melvin Gibbs
Drums – Ronnie Burrage
Guitar – Kelvyn Bell
Guitar – Martin Aubert
Saxophone, Flute – Byron Bowie
Synthesizer – Martin Fischer
Trumpet – Ted Daniel (tracks: A1, A3 to B2)
Percussion, Backing Vocals – Charles "Bobo" Shaw (tracks: A1, A2)

Bowie says he picked up the trombone to complete the family horn section. Middle brother Byron played saxophone, and eldest brother Lester, who’d go on to cofound the groundbreaking Art Ensemble of Chicago, was on trumpet. Growing up in the rich St. Louis, Mo., scene of the 1960s, Bowie and his peers had to know all styles of music and then some; Bowie played everything from blues, with Albert King, to pop-R&B, with his now-former sister-in-law Fontella Bass, to the avant-garde. “We more or less played R&B to survive, and we played free jazz for love,” he says. “We were caught between the beboppers, the free jazz, the R&B and the funk. That’s my influence. And then I had another: The Jimi Hendrix influence was a big thing in high school. So I added rock and roll.”

Oliver Lake, who helped establish the Black Artists Group in St. Louis and would later launch the World Saxophone Quartet, remembers a teenage Bowie coming to the BAG sessions. “I guess he was 15 or 16 years old. He had an original voice. That’s what was so exciting about someone that age,” Lake says. “He was playing in these high registers. He could blast. He could get very soft and subtle. He had maturity beyond his age, in terms of the history.”

Following the lead of his big brother and the Art Ensemble, Bowie headed to Paris in 1971 with BAG members Lake, trumpeters Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore and drummer Charles “Bobo” Shaw. While the stay lasted less than two years, their version of free jazz found acceptance almost immediately. “It even kind of surprised us how much interest there was in what we were doing,” Lake says. “At our first concert there was so much press there, and so many cameras, that we were kind of taken aback. I thought, ‘Wow, we don’t even have a recording!'”

By 1973, Bowie and Shaw had settled on New York’s Lower East Side at the height of the loft-jazz scene. During weekly performances at the La MaMa Theatre on Fourth Street, their music started to include some of the other styles from the St. Louis days. “We started incorporating this R&B vibe, with a little blues and a little funk, into the free jazz,” Bowie says.

James Chance, an alto saxophonist who brought free jazz to the avant-punk “no wave” scene at the end of the decade with the Contortions, witnessed those early shows. “They were mostly playing free,” he says. “Then it would go into funk rhythms, even though at the La MaMa they didn’t even have a bass player usually. Or even any rhythm besides drums.”

The meeting between Bowie and Chance proved fortuitous. When the Contortions disbanded, the frenetic saxophonist asked Bowie to help him form a new band with stronger rhythm-and-blues elements. Rechristened James White and the Blacks, Chance’s backing band pulled double-duty as the first lineup of Defunkt, which officially debuted in 1979. Hungarian playwright Janos Gat provided the compositions’ socially conscious lyrics, and Bowie’s brother Byron wrote the arrangements.

Defunkt drew a wide range of admirers, including future members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Miles Davis who, Bowie says, praised the band in interviews and invited the trombonist to his home. Lake says the original Defunkt inspired him to pursue his funky side with his band Jump Up. “It was funk but it wasn’t traditional funk,” Lake says. “I could still hear the Black Artists Group in what he was doing, and I think that’s what attracted me to the sound. He would sing these lyrics and have the funk beat going. Then all of a sudden he’d play some wild trombone solo over the top of it.”

While Defunkt spent most of its time in New York, with occasional tours to Europe, it made two memorable trips to Minneapolis in 1982, to play the landmark nightclub First Avenue. At the first show, an up-and-coming local named Prince insisted he top their shared bill. “We commenced to laying out a New York brand of rock/punk/funk that went over very well with the crowd. And we kicked ass,” Bowie recalls. “When Prince took the stage, the first thing he said was ‘Jazz is dead,’ which I kind of took offense at. I saw it at first as a dismissal of the New York punk-funk sound. But I kind of see it a little differently now.” In retrospect, he thinks Prince might have meant that new music was being born out of the older style.

Today, Bowie says it’s hard for his new work to get attention. “The only Defunkt band I can get a tour with now is [Downtown in the ’80s]. But I’m 30 years past that. I’ve got [new] music now,” he says. “As long as I’m breathing I’m going to try to get it exposed.” Whether it’s Live at Channel Zero with the ’80s band or the hot European unit of Mastervolt, the Voodoo continues. “It’s all music. It’s just an energy. It makes your ears react differently and it makes your soul act differently,” Bowie says. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do for 62 years. I grew up believing that’s the way it should be done. All music is just ‘Do it right, do it well.'”

Led by trombonist Joseph Bowie -- the son of a St. Louis-based music teacher, the brother of big band arranger Byron Bowie, and late trumpet player of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Lester Bowie -- Defunkt created some of the most adventurous sounds of the last quarter of the 20th century. Formed in 1978, Defunkt initially took a danceable approach to jazz. Although their first three albums -- Defunkt, Razor's Edge, and Thermonuclear Sweat -- made them leaders of New York's radical underground music scene, their inability to achieve commercial expectations led them to disband in 1983, with Bowie retreating to the island of St. Croix. Reorganized after Bowie's return to New York in 1986, Defunkt recorded an additional six albums, including A Blues Tribute: Jimi Hendrix & Muddy Waters and In America, between 1988-1993. Beginning in 1996, Bowie sought a way to combine the big band jazz of the 1930s and '40s and the dance rhythms and grooves of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Expanding Defunkt with the addition of more horn players and background vocalists, Bowie introduced the Defunkt Big Band with a six-week stint at the Knitting Factory in New York.

Defunkt founder Joseph Bowie, the youngest member of the Bowie musician family, began his career in St. Louis, Missouri where he was born in 1953 and raised by his father William Lester Bowie, Sr. ,music teacher and he was greatly influenced by his older brothers Byron (saxophonist & arranger) and older brother Lester, internationally acclaimed jazz trumpeter. 

In 1971 he toured Paris for the first time with jazz ensemble, then with Dr. John in Montreaux (in 1973). During 1973 - 76 Joe collaborated and performed with Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman & many more jazz personalities in New York at that time. in 1978 Joseph began working with punk/funk artist James Chance and soon became a fixture on the new wave scene in NY. Defunkt was born during that time. During the next 25 years, Defunkt has recorded 15 CDs and Joseph has become a funk officianado. In 2003, Joseph moved residence to Holland where he is developing new musical relationships throughout the EU and the world.
Punk-funk-jazz unit Defunkt was born in 1978 in New York City merged avant-garde with rocking, funky grooves. It was one of the first band to make a real fusion of popular and extreme music styles, also pioneers in early stages of rap music in the early 80-s. Defunkt has never gained huge commercial success due to unwillingness to compromise creativity and musical uniqueness and integrity for popular acclaim.

With time, Buddhism entered the consciousness of Defunkt, the focus on community issues, family & humanity struggles, have become more of a priority than ever. The focus and uniqueness of this powerful, groovy Defunkt style of music has continued to grow and evolve in spite of the lack of commercial success.

In 2009 Defunkt celebrated its 30 year birthday with two big projects - Defunkt Big Band and Defunkt Soul.

The First Defunkt comes off as a more polished version of The Contortions' punk-funk, as if the no-wave band was replaced by a professional jazz-funk band. But this doesn't diminish "Make Them Dance", "In The Good Times", "Defunkt" etc from being spazz-funk dancefloor anthems. In the end though, as track after track follows exactly the same recipe, the album gets tiring. The real highlight is "We All Dance Together", where apart from the usual funk we get a sinister chorus and a chaotic instrumentation.

An on-record postulation...instead of leaping forward from funk to disco to hip hop, what if one leapt backward? You'd go from disco to funk and waaaay back to jazz. More a curiosity than a good album, though making "Good Times" sound like it was recorded in 1972 was a highlight for me.

No wonder the RHCP cite them as an influence. Pure Funky goodness.

Bill Frisell and Vernon Reid - 1986 - Smash and Scatteration

Bill Frisell and Vernon Reid 
Smash and Scatteration

01. Landscapes In Alternative History 4:27
02. Size 10 1/2 Sneaks 3:10
03. Amarillo, Barbados 2:49
04. Last Nights Of Paris 3:04
05. Burden Of Dreams 6:35
06. Dark Skin 5:27
07. Fr, Fr, Frisell 4:10
08. Smal Hands 4:12
09. Black Light 7:06

Guitar, Synthesizer, Electronic Drums, Effects - Bill Frisell
Guitar, Banjo, Synthesizer, Electronic Drums - Vernon Reid

BILL FRISELL is an extraordinary name in a guitar world of contemporary American jazz and jazz rock scene: he is both eclectic in blending various musical styles (prog folk, classical, country, noise) and experimental from the timbral point of view, since he's extensively using a large number of guitar effects, making unique sounds with delays, distortions, reverbs, octave shifters etc.

He was born in Baltimore in 1951. He played clarined as a youngster. In early 80's, Pat Metheny recommended Frisell to Paul Motian who was recording an album for ECM Records. The consequence was Frisells new status: an in-house ECM's guitarist. The most notable cooperation from this period is probably working on an album with Jan Garbarek. Frisell released his first solo album in 1983.

The following two albums, 'Rambler' and 'Lookout For Hope' (released in '84 and '87 respectively) were done with a quartet -- Kermit Driscoll on bass, Joey Baron on drums, and Hank Roberts on cello (later reduced on trio when cellist left). This period is know as the New York City Era. He started his companionship with John Zorn - being a member of his band NAKED CITY.

In 1988 he moves to Seattle. The early 90's, arguably Frisell's best period brought 'Have A Little Faith' and 'This Land', on first exploring the whole palette of Americana music - from Copland to Dylan to Madonna - and on second the set of original numbers. During that period he worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto as well.

One of Bill Frisell early album - duets with Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society and Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid.
There are just they two playing on this album, but music isn't what you can expect from usual guitarists duet. First of all, them both use plenty of electronics, from guitar synths to dx drum synth (Vernon Reid plays banjo as well). Then, music there is quite experimental mix of usual Frisell's down tempo country and western techniques with big amount of free jazz, electronics and even some hardcore.

Possibly, the mix is not very organic, but many moments will really attracts listener. Some melodic, even nostalgic compositions are mixed with many quite free form electronic/guitar experimental ones. Electronic drums sound often dated and very artificial, happily there are not too much of them.

I believe everyone who knows Frisell's solo works like him mostly because of his eclecticism: here you will find excellent example of it. Far not best Frisell's work, this album is really one of the his most experimental. With it's own pros and cons. But really interesting enough to be listened.

Viklicky, Frisell, Driscoll, Johnson - 1985 - Dvere

Viklicky, Frisell, Driscoll, Johnson 

01. 70. Východní (East 70th Street) 5:16
02. Asi By To Tak Slo (C'est-ce Que Ça Peut Bien Être) 3:17
03. Podzim (The Fall) 5:16
04. Jed Dvacítkou (Take A Streetcar No. 20) 3:49
05. To Jsou Veci (Those Are The Things) 3:38
06. Suita Pro Klavír C. 2 (Suite For Piano No. 2) (19:27)
.a Kasace Pro Vítr A Dést (Music For Wind And Rain)
.b Basalicka
.c Edwardian
.d Dvere (Door)
.e Zasnený Gepard (Dreaming Cheetah)

A1 to A5 recorded June 14, 1979, at the Supraphon studio Dejvice, Prague.
B recorded on June 23, 1984, at the Dvorák Hall of the House Of Artists, Prague

Bass - Kermit Driscoll 
Drums - Vinton Johnson
Guitar - Bill Frisell
Piano - Emil Viklický

The rapport between these musicians is truly extraordinary and the resulting music still keeps the listener twitching involuntarily in his shoes. Viklicky´s compositions are brilliant as always, and the Funky rhythms don´t conceal his unusual melodic approach. Frisell fans will find this early recording also very interesting, as he was still in the stage of developing his unique playing technique. This music remains as relevant, as it was at the time of the recording and in retrospect it was remarkably advanced and quite ahead of its time. Of the countless fusion recordings made in the 1970s and since, this music is one of the few examples of unique identity, which did not blend into the background. It should be quite a revelation for a new generation of listeners exposed to it for the first time, over three decades after it was recorded, as well as those Fusion lovers who think they have already heard it all. I enjoy it now as much as I did the first time around, hoping more people will discover it themselves. A must for every fusion connoisseur!

Bill Frisell - 1985 - Rambler

Bill Frisell 

01. Tone - 8:00
02. Music I Heard - 4:49
03. Rambler - 8:20
04. When We Go - 5:19
05. Resistor - 5:49
06. Strange Meeting - 7:05
07. Wizard of Odds - 6:19

Recorded August 1984 at Power Station, New York

Bill Frisell: guitar, guitar synthesizer
Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, cornet and fluegelhorn
Bob Stewart: tuba
Jerome Harris: electric bass
Paul Motian: drums

If you’re like me, then you were introduced to the prodigy of guitarist Bill Frisell through the work of John Zorn’s groundbreaking Naked City outfit. In that context, Frisell was able to stretch his skin in ways that he never has before or since. Or so I believed until I only recently began to explore his back catalogue on ECM. The summit of these early explorations is shared by 1983’s In Line and Rambler. Where the former seemed to burrow into the deepest recesses of his craft, the latter travels far and wide, not least through the presence of some fine sidemen: Kenny Wheeler on three kinds of brass, Paul Motian on drums, Jerome Harris on electric bass, and, perhaps most notably, Carla Bley band regular Bob Stewart on tuba. Stewart’s pomp is especially enlivening, teasing out as it does Frisell’s penchant for not taking himself too seriously. The tuba threads an unwavering smile through the morbid march that is “Music I Heard” and adds earth tones to the silvery palette of the title track. The latter is quintessential among Frisell’s output. The lovely webbed slink of his guitar and gorgeous Wheelerian dialogues carries us in strums and strides to an ethereal conclusion. The band also abides by humor in the hokey and lumbering “Tone.” This, the album’s opener, gives us a taste of the mesh that is Frisell’s style, one strung with long threads of algae, picked up and spun by his band mates in kind. Through the tree swing sway of “When We Go” and the tongue-in-cheekily titled “Wizard Of Odds” we encounter Frisell’s flowery side, ever enhanced by Wheeler’s squeals and stops. The campiness of “Resistor” is tempered by the welding torch of Frisell’s electric and the laser of Wheeler’s trumpet, while “Strange Meeting,” fettered by a pleasant bass line, draws itself into an incisive Synclavier sound. As vital as Frisell is to this date, one feels him most in the compositions. Wheeler and Harris are the real stars, and let us not shut our eyes to Paul Motian’s sparkling threads.

Rambler is a significant album for showing the world a remarkable guitarist on his own terms, and through a set of compositions as distinct to his sound-world as the clouds are to the sky.

Tim Berne & Bill Frisell - 1984 - Theoretically

Tim Berne & Bill Frisell 

01. M. 6:04
02. Inside The Brain 8:30
03. Preview 4:06
04. Carolina 3:32
05. 2011 16:17
06. Perky Figure 2:42

Recorded and Mixed: August/September 1983 (High Rise Sound) and August 1984 (First Choice Studio).

Guitar [Electric], Acoustic Guitar – Bill Frisell
Saxophone [Alto] – Tim Berne

It doesn't take long for Tim Berne to assert his presence on Theoretically, his outstanding 1986 collaboration with Bill Frisell. Over the guitarist's carefully orchestrated acoustic parts, the alto player shrieks and soars like, well, Tim Berne. The overall feel of this record puts it almost into ambient territory, as Frisell's volume swells and Berne's upper register squeals blend into a single fabric of weighty yet spacious sound. It is a place where melody emerges almost as a surprise from a strangely menacing backdrop of pure atmosphere. There are moments where the music becomes quite intense, where the layer upon layer of guitar and saxophone create an extremely unsettling feeling in the mind of the listener, but also moments of relative peace, although never without something disturbing lurking around the edges. There are also moments that appear more traditional, in which the Monkish quality of Frisell's music comes to the forefront, as on the charming head to "Preview." It all works, no doubt about it, but there is room to question the quality of the source material. Overall, this is a good, if not particularly great, album from two musicians at the top of their game.

This recording came early in the careers of both Berne and Frisell. The emergent qualities of both their work can be seen here ... the space that is a keystone of Frisell's work, and the knottiness for which Berne is sine qua non. Other reviews will say that this isn't the best work of either -- a high bar! -- but the disc is an intensely intriguing and beautiful piece of work in which the two young masters shine a fantastic light on each other. 

Bill Frisell - 1983 - In Line

Bill Frisell
In Line

01. Start (5:55)
02. Throughout (6:52)
03. Two Arms (4:00)
04. Shorts (3:08)
05. Smile on You (4:07)
06. The Beach (6:06)
07. In Line (4:36)
08. Three (4:17)
09. Godson Song (3:57)

Recorded August 1982 at Talent Studio, Oslo

Bill Frisell / guitars
Arild Andersen / bass

I had the great fortune of seeing Bill Frisell by his lonesome in the summer of 2009 at Northampton’s Iron Horse, where he employed a rather modest set of equipment consisting mainly of digital pedal delays, unfolding from one guitar a ghostly map of sound. This process of self-generation seems to have always been at the heart of his musical output, and no album approaches that feeling as intimately as In Line. His sound is so full that bassist Arild Andersen’s reverberating swaths of darkness reveal an inner voice of the guitar in “Start” and carry Frisell’s suggestive lilts to distant conclusions. Andersen’s role is not to be ignored, sharing as he does a sensual conversation with Frisell in “Three” and providing a tearful backdrop to “Godson Song.” Here, Frisell’s guitar also gently weeps, slithering under the bass’s watchful eye, ever at the edge of naivety. The intertwining electrics of “Two Arms” tighten like a finger trap into a wormhole toward “Shorts,” which recalls childhood with its unintended (?) allusion to “Three Blind Mice.” These brief flashes of nostalgia make their way carefully down the spiral staircase of “Smile On You” and out onto “The Beach,” a stunning soundscape for processed electrics that moves like a train through a tunnel and crests atop Andersen’s slithering harmonics. The title track steps out of the album’s default monochrome with the gamelan colors of its detuned acoustics. The more clean-cut leads take us farthest in a final blissful gasp.

Yet if we’re going to talk about bliss, then our lips must shape the word “Throughout,” which names the album’s most inescapable embrace. This piece would also provide the basis for Gavin Bryars’ heavenly 1986 adaptation, Sub Rosa. The chord progression itself speaks volumes and gives breath to the lead electric as it sings with all the restraint at its disposal.

Like an opera singer who cuts through all the trained vibrato now and then with that single crystalline note, Frisell’s phrasings tremble on a watery surface, glinting occasionally with the light of a distant sun. In that light is hope, and this hope one encounters ECM’s core philosophy of silence. If you only own one Frisell album, make it this.
Tyran Grillo

Viklicky, Frisell, Driscoll, Johnson - 1980 - Okno

Viklicky, Frisell, Driscoll, Johnson 
Okno (The Window)

01. Trochu Funky / The Funky Way 6:10
02. Zase Zapomneli Zavrít Okno / They've Left The Window Open Again 4:35
03. Siesta 5:45
04. Jumbo Jet 6:15
05. Boston 5:15
06. Písen Pro Jana Hammra / Song For Jan Hammer 6:45
07. Jeste Jednou Slunce / Once Again Sun 4:50
08. Kveten / Maytime 4:25

Recorded at the Supraphon Dejvice Studio, Prague, from 11 to 13 June, 1979

Bass [Electric] - Kermit Driscoll
Synthesizer [Oberheim, Arp Omni], Electric Piano, Clavinet - Emil Viklický
Drums - Vinton Johnson
Electric Guitar - Bill Frisell
Violin - Jan Beránek (tracks: B2)

To find Czech pianist Emil Vicklicky playing synthesisers and Fender Rhodes in a funk/fusion band alongside guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Vinton Johnson is less surprising when the time (1979) and the circumstances– he’d just completed a year at Berklee during which he met and jammed with Frisell in Boston – are taken into account. 

Viklicky, although now justly celebrated as a masterful post-bop acoustic pianist with a penchant for Moravian folk music, also has a jazz-rock past: he played in the style with a band called Energit in the 1970s. Here, on fourteen tracks (taken from two albums, Window and Door) of Viklicky originals, plus one by Driscoll and a closer by Frisell, the quartet romps joyously through a programme of jaunty funk, very much of its time (one track even features ‘jive’ talk), but still enjoyably compelling today. 

Driscoll (alternating between spurting funkiness and sonorous Jacoesque electric bass as required) and the dynamic Johnson lay down a fearsome but flexible beat, and Viklicky and Frisell fire off a series of skipping, dexterously played solos – overall, this is a relatively uncomplicated, even 'good-time’ recording redolent of a period when jazz met ‘the groove’ and simply had a good, relatively unselfconscious time doing so.