Bill Frisell is a living jazz icon, famed for his ethereal tone and snaking post-bop lines. Here, he partners with Thomas Morgan for a live set – just guitar and standup bass – cut at the Village Vanguard in New York. It’s intimate and beautiful, as you’d expect from ECM. “It Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago” unfolds in cloud-like billows of arpeggios (via Frisell’s Collings semi-hollow), and rich lines from both players. It’s gorgeous and complex.
“Wildwood Flower” is the kind of country-jazz communion that Frisell has explored before and, no question, this Carter Family classic works as a jazz standard. The closing crowd-pleaser is the theme from James Bond’s “Goldfinger,” long popular with the surf-guitar crowd. Here, Fris plays it with a straight face and it’s dead-on perfect – much like the rest of this CD.
Dominic Miller, meanwhile, is best known as Sting’s guitarman, and this is his first for ECM. There’s nothing wrong with the album – it’s full of exquisitely recorded instrumentals on acoustic – but it’s oddly sweet for the trailblazing label. “Water” is charming, though perhaps too close to New Age for its own good. Miller’s fine fingerstyle aside, the collection comes off more as elegant background music than anything truly compelling.
This article originally appeared in VG September 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.