Jim Hall & Bill Frisell

Hemispheres, the new two-CD album by guitarists Jim Hall and Bill Frisell, is the year’s first jazz masterpiece, a work of spontaneous lyricism as glittering and joyful as anything either has recorded (and, given their histories, that’s saying a lot). Hall, who’s 78, and Frisell, who’s 57 and something of a protg, both have a tendency toward doodling when they’re not anchored by a rhythm section. But Disc One—10 tracks of barebones duets (including Milt Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” Hall’s anthemic “Bimini,” and several pure improvs)—are loose-limbered and air tight, the two trading harmony and melody, then merging the strands to the point where it’s unclear who’s playing what but it meshes and sings all the same. Disc Two—10 more tracks, mainly standards (“I’ll Remember April,” “Chelsea Bridge,” “My Funny Valentine,” “In a Sentimental Mood”), the guitarists joined by Scott Colley on bass and Joey Baron on drums—is no less free-spirited. Colley and Baron, who have played as sideman to both as well as many others, aren’t the sort to lay down rhythmic law; they splash color and weave textures along the leaders’ sinuous lines.

The duet sessions were recorded on 8-track analog tape, over five days in July 2007, in engineer Tony Scherr’s house in Brooklyn. They laid down 46 takes of 26 tunes, and picked presumably the best ones (which may explain the lack of doodling). The sound is wonderfully clear and natural, except for a 50Hz hum in one of the guitar amps—not loud but audible in soft passages. (Couldn’t someone have fixed the ground loop?) The quartet session was recorded in a single day, 14 months later, at Sear Sound—one of the great purist studios in New York—by the meticulous Joe Ferla (probably in DSD, though the liner notes don’t say so), and it’s more vivid still.

The album is released by AristShare, a label that gives musicians full control over their work along with 85% of royalties, which these artists fully deserve.

Warren Willows's picture

I question why you recommend "Artistshare" music as their shipping costs are excessive and the downloads are only an MP3 level of quality. I live in Canada and this CD would cost, after 8$ worth of shipping around 34$ I was keenly interested in an album you had recommended last year "Sky Blue" until discovering the excessive costs asked by this organization. I wish these artists had a more typical distribution network or would list themselves on "HD Tracks" where we cold download lossless files.Love you column, Cheers

tom collins's picture

fred:i went to artistshare.com. it is a great site and easy to navigate. there were some samples to listen to. i love this concept as a distribution option - no money to the big labels - most to the people who deserve it most. i just ordered this cd set. if it is as good as it seems, i will definitely support the other artists as well. thanks for exposing this great new source.

Fred Kaplan's picture

Warren - None of ArtistShare's CDs cost $34 or anything close to that. What does cost a fair bit are downloadable extras - sort of like special features on a DVD - things like videotapes of rehearsals or audio commentary or printed scores. The actual albums, like the Hall-Frisell or Maria Schneider's, are CDs, which you order in the mail and which, as far as I know, carry no extraordinary shipping costs.

tom collins's picture

with shipping the cost for my order breaks down as $25.00 for the music and $3.90 for the shipping. this is us dollars. i don't consider $25 bad for a double disk set. the prices of other albums seemed reasonable and if i like this one as much as i think, will try others.

Warren Willows's picture

GentsWhat appears to be an open and advantageous market plan is, I believe,exactly the opposite. Artists selling with ArtistShare are only available for purchase from ArtistShare as far as I can determine. The Amazon link goes back to this vendor. In this light the "big labels" mentioned above are "open market" with their products freely available at numerous venders. So I surmise these artists are taking a hit when listed with ArtistShare due to enforced and limited distribution. If these CDs were offered to numerous vendors/ resellers they would have an opportunity to sell far greater number of albums. Furthermore, and this is my complaint, I would gladly pay a good price(say $15.00) for a lossless download but within the highly restrictive marketing offered by ArtistShare I can only download a low rez MP3. My CD, with an 8$ shipping fee is 34$. I do spend a large amount of money on music and audio but I resent an 8$ shipping fee and monopolistic practices shrouded in the cloak

Warren willows's picture

....of artistic virtue. (apologies - sent too early, before finished) WW

S. Chapman's picture

My cost, incl shipping, was 28.95 USD. To me, this seems like a much better deal than paying $30-$50 for another tired audiophile reissue. It's a pleasure to support currently working jazz musicians, like Messrs. Hall and Frisell.

tom collins's picture

i received my discs yesterday. this is not music that you "get" right away, disc 1 anyway. in a few listens, i am sure that i will. sonically, i love the way it is recorded, the notes sound so clean and clear. the first disc has a real intimacy to it. the second disc has a lot of the 50s cool jazz vibe that i like and find it more accessible right from the start. it is also very clear and clean. the instruments have immediacy. i am glad i bought this and think it is a good value for a double disc that is so well made.

Jonathan's picture

Warren,It sounds like you work for a label! LOL I have to stick up for ArtistShare as well. They are trying to change things by focusing on music as an "experience" (thus the documentation aspect of the project) and are very artist friendly. The old distribution model was a really bad deal for artists.J

warren willows's picture

You guys sound paranoic. I am making the simple statement that Artistshare doesn't offer it's customers an easy and straightforward high res download. If you live outside the USA, UPS shipping rates are excessive. You guys mention 'labels' like they are some horribly oppressive group of companies.... Get a life!I simply wish that this organization was more interested in selling music.

plarges's picture

The album is released by AristShare, a label that gives musicians full control over their work along with 85% of royalties, which these artists fully deserve.

Ali's picture


metrix's picture

The sound is wonderfully clear and natural, except for a 50Hz hum in one of the guitar amps—not loud but audible in soft passages. (Couldn’t someone have fixed the ground loop?)

ILGIN's picture