Bill FRISELL – Rambler 1984

Bill FRISELL – Rambler 1984
ECM 1287

Jazz

Guitarist Bill Frisell has always had an ear for unusual tonal colors, and they’re particularly strong on this 1984 recording, an early and enduring document of a major musician’s work. There’s a distinctive emphasis on brass and the lowest registers, with Kenny Wheeler on trumpet and flügelhorn, Bob Stewart on tuba, and Jerome Harris on electric bass; drummer Paul Motian completes the quintet. The thick, bass-heavy textures and contrasting layers of sound give the music an almost orchestral quality, while Frisell and Wheeler’s shared love of pitch bending sometimes gives the eerie sense of funhouse mirrors, a dream of sonic and temporal distortion. “Rambler” is a mirthful echo of mariachi music, “Music I Heard” is propelled by unlikely allusions to march rhythms, and “Resistor” has some of Frisell’s most animated playing on disc, his guitar synth creating a Pandora’s box of unexpected sounds and twisting, mercurial lines.
By Stuart Broomer. AMG.
**
This is perhaps Frisell’s finest effort. He has explored a number of styles over the course of his long career, but “Rambler” is so unique, so creative, and so inspired. This is vintage Frisell back when he was making so very bizarre sounds with his guitar. It’s exactly this sort of bold experimentalism that drew me to Frisell in the first place.

The writing is uniformly strong: there are some lovely pieces such as “Rambler” and “When We Go”, some harsh dissonance such as “Tone” and “Wizard of Odds”, and some that really defy categorization such as “Music I Heard”, a quasi-march in odd meter.

The other treat is the side men. Kenny Wheeler is in prime form here. His dark tone blends nicely with Bob Stewart’s tuba (when was the last time you heard tuba on a jazz album?) and Frisell’s legato synth/guitar strangeness. Wheeler’s odd solos definitely take things “out”, as they say, but in a different manner than Frisell.

The musicianship is outstanding as is the sense of ensemble. There are times when albums feel like the players were thrown together for the session without time to play as a group, but that’s not the case here – they play like they’ve been together for years. Their blend and balance is further enhanced by EMC’s trademark “cloud chamber” sound creating a thick, luxurious ambience.

I would put this in the top ten jazz albums of the last 30 years. That sounds extreme, but this is just that good. Rambler is an absolutely essential album not just for Frisell fans, for all fans of avant garde, progressive jazz music. Check it out.
By Steward Willions.
**
Drums- Paul Motian
Electric Bass- Jerome Harris
Guitar, Synthesizer [Guitar], Written-by- Bill Frisell
Trumpet, Cornet, Flugelhorn- Kenny Wheeler
Tuba- Bob Stewart
**
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
**


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