(2005 Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Jazz Album)
The 858 Strings:
engineered by: Eric Liljestrand mastering by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York City
mastering by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York City
and mixed at The Village, North Hollywood, CA
The Washington Post
As on a conventional jazz album, Frisell's solos are up front.
Fortunately, they're as compelling as always…. No other jazz guitarist
has adapted rock's sonic vocabulary to such personal ends: He uses amplification
to make introspection audible.
Frisell, make no mistake about it, is one of the most significant improvisers to emerge in the past 20 years. He rewrote the rules for jazz guitar, radically scaling back the rampant virtuosity that had become endemic to six-string gladiators, while exploring sonic dimensions disdained by mainstream players. There's a whole generation of young guitarists who now belong to Frisell's unofficial school. Yet the avatar himself couldn't be less interested in sticking to the genre in which he's revered.
No other jazz musician of his stature has ever willfully delved into as many strikingly different musical styles and genres. Frisell's interests now range widely over country, Americana, film scores, pop, world music, folk and multimedia art collaborations, combining and deconstructing all of the aforementioned and then some. Frisell is as much a composer, bandleader and musical conceptualist as he is a player, and his many confirm this.
His latest, "Unspeakable," goes out on a limb, even for Frisell. In league with the adventurous producer Hal Willner, he serves up an unclassifiable musical melange whose bare-bones melodies, elemental dance-influenced funk grooves and liberal use of sampling and turntable manipulation (courtesy of Willner) roughen up Frisell's more familiar pastoral leanings. It's also telling that engineer Eric Liljestrand receives co-composer credit on a few songs; his sonic fingerprints are a palpable presence throughout.
Where does this leave Frisell? … What moments of guitar glory that are present are mainly in a vicious blues-rock vein. Yet tasty guitar licks and fills make up the marrow of the album….. Frisell the consummate tonal colorist (and closet funkmeister) is omnipresent. His slinky arrangements also deftly weave a compact string section in and about the proceedings, lending additional melodic interest and odd undercurrents to the minimal tunes.
"Unspeakable" may or may not give us clues to Frisell's future musical plans, which is just the way he likes it.
His partner on ``Unspeakable'' is film score veteran /``Saturday
Night Live'' music supervisor Hal Willner. Together, they rummaged through
NBC's well-stocked record library in search of weird and wonderful sounds
on obscure vinyl. These samples, plus Frisell's frisky guitar riffs,
a rhythm section, string trio and funky horns result in a sublime 72-minute
U.S. News & World Report
"Unspeakable" by jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is full of surprises. His balmy riffs meld with cello, horns, turntables, and samples for cuts that are soulful, salty, soothing, spacey -- and great fun.
The Guardian (London)
"Unspeakable" by Bill Frisell is the "Bill and beats"
dance album promised by producer Hal Willner last spring. It seems to
exist in a parallel universe, a science-fiction construct that makes
you wonder what the world would be like had some "tipping point"
moment gone a different way. "Unspeakable" makes you think:
what if people really danced to music like this?