Bill Frisell : Valentine Review
Guitarist Bill Frisell has released a trio album titled Valentine. The Bill Frisell Trio is Frisell on guitar, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums. Frisell is not only the leader but the chief composer on the date as he establishes the framework for the trio to meticulously explore thirteen selections. “When Thomas is playing with me, it’s like he’s time-traveling. His presence in what’s happening in the moment is so extreme that it’s like he knows what I’m going to play before I play it. There’s almost a physical sensation like he’s caressing my hands when I’m playing my instrument. He becomes a part of me,” Frisell says. In recording, the road-tested trio aimed to tap the communicative energy the trio developed on the road without allowing the music to sound stale or canned. The repertoire they chose for Valentine includes a good number of pieces the band had performed in various gigs, but also includes selections they had never performed before. That keeps the energy fresh and still consistent. Frisell expands on the chemistry, “Rudy is also amazingly present. The first time we played together, we did ‚ ‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ and I looked over at him, and he was mouthing the words. That was the clincher for me! He doesn’t just keep the time. He puts his whole being in the music.”
“Valentine,“ the title track, an affectionate wink to one of Frisell’s jazz heroes Thelonious Monk, begins with Royston’s rolling drum intro. The melody is filled with dissonant seconds as Frisell takes us to the solo sections. The blues form is the perfect setting for the trio to interact and explore the many possibilities together. Morgan and Royston settle into a medium swing feel that Frisell solos over. Morgan’s solo is colorful as he interacts with Frisell’s chordal hues.
“Levees” finds the trio exploring more textures in an atmospheric composition with many of Frisell’s hallmarks of chord voicings, effects, and a country approach to the jazz language. The waltz time is relaxed as the melodies and improvisations unfold. The three musicians are never in a hurry to rush through a musical idea; instead, they develop motifs to complete musical sentences. The Nashville inspired jazz is beautiful, and each musician brings their own perspective to create a whole sum.
As many sets by the trio have, the album closes with the song “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the Civil Rights movement. Frisell explains, “I just keep hoping that we’re going to get things together. I’ve been playing the song for years, and I’m going to keep playing it till there is no need anymore. I can’t help but hope that day will come.” That informed energy is behind every note on this album, and it is a message that the jazz community needs now more than ever.
August 14, 2020
Blue Note Records