Bill Frisell's Sign of Life
Bill Frisell's Sign of Life (Savoy Jazz) is one of the most gorgeous new albums I've heard in a while. It's in the tradition of his "Americana" albums (Disfarmer; History, Mystery; Ghost Town; Gone, Just Like a Train; This Land), but here he burrows deeper into the roots. There are traces of folk, bluegrass, minimalism, western-blues, as well as certain modes and improvisational cadences of jazz.
The ensemble is the 858 Quartet (Frisell on guitar; Jenny Scheinman, violin; Eyvind Kang, viola; Hank Roberts, cello), first formed (and last recorded) five years ago, to accompany a museum exhibition of Gerhard Richter's new paintings, which the German artist called the "858 series." That CD came close to capturing Richter's eerie synthesis of pastoral lyricism and steely abstraction, but may have more persuasively shown that some visual artworks can't be translated in aural forms.
Frisell composed the new albumall 17 tracksat the Vermont Studio Center, where his wife, the playful abstract painter Carole d'Inverno, was on a month-long retreat. The liner notes quote John Cage and others on the blessings of silence, of a pause from daily industry, and there is a hushed awe about Sign of Life, an expression of intense calm.
The musicians are top-notch, in fine form, and the soundproduced by Lee Townsend, engineered by Adam Munez, mastered by Greg Calbiis stunningly vivid.