Jim Hall / Bill Frisell: Hemispheres (2008)
The first and lasting impression of this full-length collaboration between master and genre-bending guitarists Jim Hall and Bill Frisell is one of relaxed intimacy and indeed, this no-frills approach is one of the strengths of this project. Great affinity between great musician focused on creating music, who have the time and space to establish such rapport, and then share their creative process is the corner stone of fan-friendly label ArtistShare. The result is a much more satisfactory and successful process than the typical one offered by more established labels, who tend to celebrate such musical summits with redundant production fireworks.
The first disc was recorded on five session between July and December 2007 in Tony Scherr's (Frisell's musical partner, bassist and guitarist) house studio in Brooklyn and featured Hall and Frisell in duet. The live analog recording, executed with a vintage 1940's microphone attached to Hall's guitar, clever use of effects by Frisell and no overdubs, contributes to the warm sound that radiates from these sessions. The recording process usually began with Hall and Frisell playing their original pieces straight from the chart then immediately playing a freer version of it, or as both Hall and Frisell called it "the inverse". On most of the tracks Frisell opts for the co-pilot seat, creating sonic canvas for Hall to lead and improvise over. Frisell's "Throughout," a composition that they have been playing together for many years, and the 15-minutes open improvisation "Migration" testify to this modest approach. However, they share equal roles on a beautiful and playful cover of Milt Jackson's "Bags Groove" and a contemplative, Americana-tinged version of Bob Dylan's 1960's anti-war anthem "Masters Of War"a tune new to Hall before these sessions but with lyrics he enjoyed. The leisured playing by both on these sessions creates such a beautiful atmosphere which sweeps you into its stillness.
The second disc, a quartet session that feature long time collaborators of both Hall and Frisell, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron, was recorded digitally during one September day in New York, focuses on highly melodic and elegant re-orchestrations of well-known standards with few originals. The four musicians were seated in a close circle to retain the intimated feeling of the duo sessions, and all share the same supportive interplay.
The quartet expand their palette of colors on the Latin-tinged version of "I'll Remember April" and "Beija Flor," offering slow and thoughtful covers of "Chelsea Bridge" and "In A Sentimental Mood," swinging hard on "Sonnymoon For Two" and even experimenting on Hall's sound poem "Hear And Now" and the collaborative "Card Tricks".
As part of this recording process, an open call for ArtistShare participants to submit original cover art drew substantial result. The vibrant colorful result was submitted by Susan Warin, a non-verbal artist from Sophie's Art Gallery: a center where developmentally disabled adults can express themselves through art.
One of the best realized collaborations of recent years, one that crosses genres as well as generations.
Track Listing: CD1: Throughout; All Across the City; Bag's Groove; Migration; Family; Waiting to Dance; Bimini; Masters of War; Beijing Blues; Monica Jane. CD2: I'll Remember April; Barbaro; Chelsea Bridge; Owed to Freddie; Beija Flor; Here and Now; My Funny Valentine; Card Tricks; In a Sentimental Mood; Sonnymoon for Two.
Personnel: Jim Hall: guitar; Bill Frisell: guitar; Joey Baron: drums (CD2); Scott Colley: bass (CD2).