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Bill Frisell - Go West: Music for the Films of Buster Keaton (2009)

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Bill Frisell OK, so I tried the Pandora Radio thing again. After the first tune from my Marc Ribot channel, an excellent live version of his really screwy take on Jimi Hendrix' “The Wind Cries Mary," we ended up at a tune from Bill Frisell's Go West: Music For The Films Of Buster Keaton.

I love the idea of a modern musician composing music for an “old" media event. I've never seen “Go West," but the descriptions I've read seem to bring up Charlie Chaplin, in that Keaton plays a down and out fellow, though the hijinks move away from the metropolis and out to a cattle ranch.

[ONE TRACK MIND: Bill Frisell discusses his John Lennon tribute recording 'All We Are Saying,' as well as key moments from 'Nashville' and 'Bill Frisell, Ron Carter and Paul Motian,' among others.]

Frisell (along with Kermit Driscoll on basses and the great Joey Baron on drums and percussion) is just terrific at conjuring moments of whimsy, melancholy, thoughtfulness, and frenzy. My favorite segment comes with “To The Streets" into “Tap Dancer and Confusion," ending up with “Devil Suit." The insanity of the middle tune—with its bass & percussion splatteration and Frisell's guitar processing rack set to “Meltdown"—is bookended by two songs that explore the same melodic material from different angles. It's a quite amazing twelve minutes of music.

So here we have some partially hi-tech music (though very organic in sound) set against a very lo-tech movie. Though that contrast is of interest, the music contains just about as much heart as the technology can muster.

Since I'm still exploring this idea of music discovery via the Internet, and where that's going with me (so far... the answer is “I don't really know"), this feels like a partial success. My low-tech self would still prefer to read about a new artist instead of being given a recommendation via software. Maybe when I'm introduced to some totally mind-blowing music, the methodology will drop into the background? We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll take the warm story that Frisell and his trio are telling. It's cold outside (in more ways than one) ... gotta take some added warmth wherever you can find it, you know?


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