No matter how sterile their product gets‚ the music industry essentially gives consumers one choice: "Buy it‚ or don't buy it. Either way‚ we're in control." Fortunately‚ guitar wizards Jim Hall and Bill Frisell bypassed the corporate structure to make the first recording of 2009 that climbs outside the box.
Hemispheres stems from Frisell's dream to construct improvisational soundscapes for Hall‚ a jazz legend who's worked with (among many‚ many others) Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans. But while Frisell's concept is unquestionably intriguing‚ it's also not something major labels would call a gold mine waiting to happen.
Enter ArtistShare‚ where anyone can help fund any of the online venture's current artistic projects. Basically‚ it's the musical equivalent of DailyKos: Not only can people decide who they'll "vote for" (i.e. buy)‚ but they also get to put their money where their mouth is… except instead of backing some unknown wannabe congress critter‚ they've supported the development of a two-disc set that is all about listening.
From the first notes of Frisell's "Throughout‚" you're leaning forward to hear every phrase of this muted conversation between Frisell's electric and Hall's acoustic. Although Milt Jackson's "Bag's Groove" and Dylan's "Masters of War" make appearances‚ the bulk of Disc 1 is like "Migration‚" an epic meditation that takes you either across the plains or out into space. It's original music made in the moment‚ achingly beautiful in its simplicity -- a simplicity embodied by the daring choice of eschewing digital recording technology in favor of Old School analog tape.
Bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron join the proceedings on Disc 2‚ and while standards like "I'll Remember April" and Rollins' "Sonnymoon for Two" dominate this set‚ the rhythm section keeps the "listening party" firmly on track. Group inventions "Barbaro" and "Card Tricks" are as intrinsically volatile as any of Frisell's past explorations; however‚ thanks to the overall use of space and subtlety‚ these pieces fit perfectly next to Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood."
Hemispheres isn't just entrancing music from like-minded musicians; thanks to ArtistShare‚ it's literally democracy in action. And as we saw in November‚ momentous things can happen if you keep corporations at bay and let democracy do its thing.
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