Bill Frisell

Blues Dream

by James Mann

29 January 2001


Guitarist Bill Frisell can be best summed up with the southern adage “You just ain’t right!” In his 19-year career (which includes appearances on over 160 records) he has confounded conventional “wisdom” about the art of the guitar, and in doing so, has become a minor god in the cult of the six string.

Listening to his newest release, it’s easy to see why. The opening cut sounds much like the Dell pocket mysteries of the ‘50s looked: a dark, rainy street with a downtrodden vixen illuminated by lamplight, firing up a cigarette. Billy Drewes saxophone wails like a siren, and Frisell and steel wunderkind Greg Leisz enter with a creepy, Ry Cooder-ish blend of voices that is both pastoral and ominous.

cover art

Bill Frisell

Blues Dream

US: 30 Jan 2001

Review [17.Apr.2012]

Then we move off the city street and into the Texas prairie with “Pretty Flowers Were Made for Blooming” and the following cut “Pretty Stars Were Made to Shine”, which wouldn’t sound out of place coming from a the bandstand at western swing night down at the local roadhouse. Even in such a familiar context, Frisell finds unique and unexpected avenues of musical discussion. With the sliding, moaning backing of Leisz, Frisell has amble room in which to paint tonal pictures.

One has to tip the hat to Frisell for assembling such a responsive and talented group of musicians on the record. Of course Leisz is well known from just about every good “alt-country” release of the last decade, and he shines here. The horns of Ron Miles (trumpet), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone) and Drewes on saxophone mesh well with the laconic drumming of Kenny Wollesen and bassist David Piltch.

Blues Dream is one of those rare instrumental records that neither bores or infuriates. Frisell plays like a man who would like to be spending the afternoon either in a Louisiana swamp or the control room of the Kind of Blue sessions, and this record reflects both and everything in between. Which might not be right, but it sure is good.

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