Bill Frisell: Four

The renowned guitarist submits another set of quiet intensity, drawing as much on American folk and chamber tradition as on jazz


Four is the third in a series of releases by Frisell on Blue Note Records, the first being 2019’s Harmony and the second 2020’s Valentine, both reviewed and highly praised in Jazz Journal. Each album has featured a different lineup, and on this latest release Frisell is joined by Gregory Tardy on woodwinds, Jonathan Blake on drums and Gerald Clayton on piano.

In the opening Dear Old Friend, a bright and reserved clarinet and piano melody creates a delicate atmosphere which is lifted as the rest of the ensemble joins seamlessly, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The following track, Claude Utley, takes a more jazz-oriented direction with dissonant extended chords and a looser, more relaxed rhythm.

Frisell and his ensemble continue to be as innovative as ever, a particularly interesting element being the call and response work on Lookout For Hope. It features bass clarinet in unison with the left-hand bass of the piano opposite electric guitar in unison with the right-hand treble, with a captivating result.

At the same time, the group reflects some of the more traditional aspects of the genres that influence them. The gentle Americana style of The Pioneers sees Frisell’s clean electric guitar delivering a clear, crisp melody, whereas Blues From Before has an angular guitar intro and sporadic fragments from the rest of the band before morphing into a funky blues.

For the penultimate track Frisell switches to a baritone guitar, picking out rich, bassy harmonies to which Tardy responds on the tenor saxophone, underpinned by distant percussion and steadily lifted by vibrant piano. 

Frisell’s latest is another introspective and thoughtful release, with a complex and nuanced programme. Like his two preceding Blue Note releases, it’s an excellent listen.

Dear Old Friend (For Alan Woodard); Claude Utley; The Pioneers; Holiday; Waltz For Hal Willner; Lookout For Hope; Monroe; Wise Woman; Blues From Before; Always; Good Dog, Happy Man; Invisible; Dog On A Roof (57.50)
Frisell (g, elg, bass g); Gregory Tardy (ts, cl, bcl); Jonathan Blake (d); Gerald Clayton (p). No date, New York.
Blue Note Records 00602445523139