Tone Audio #23



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Bill Frisell - Disfarmer  

Bill Frisell — Disfarmer


By Anne Farnsworth

Jazz critics don’t know how to slot guitarist Bill Frisell. Someone who has reached his level of technical expertise and success in the jazz arena is easily defined. But to shift from that exalted position into different musical territory, well that’s just crazy. So he gets a label, ‘post-jazz’, because after jazz, what else is there?

When you’re one of the most original artists working today, there’s a lot.  Disfarmer is a deep and thoughtful evocation of the American experience. Roots music, country and western, a little Charles Ives, with a subtext based on a 20th century photographer’s vision of the heartland, are the elements of this unique effort.

Disfarmer’s photography has been compared to the work of Irving Penn and Diane Arbus. He was born Mike Meyers, an Arkansas farm boy who changed his name in repudiation of his agrarian roots. He remained in Arkansas, operating out of a small studio where he took starkly beautiful black and white photos of local farm folk. After being introduced to the photographer’s work, Frisell scored a multimedia touring exhibition. That score forms the basis of this recording. A documentary is also in production, with Frisell providing the soundtrack.

The music does have a filmic quality, combining traditional instrumentation of mandolin, fiddle and pedal-steel guitar with jazz harmonies, distortion and looping. As in Ives’ compositions, at times familiar hymns and folk songs sound simultaneously, forming an atonal dreamscape. Included in the 26 cuts are covers of “That’s All Right, Mama” and “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”, classics that flow seamlessly with the originals that form the body of this amazing collection.


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