July 25, 2024


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CD review: Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – Epistrophy 2019: Video, CD cover

Like their acclaimed ECM release Small Town of 2017 – which The Guardian called “wistful and mesmerizing … tonally ingenious and haunting” – Epistrophy by guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan was recorded at New York City’s Village Vanguard.

The new album once again captures the rare empathy these two players achieve together in this intimate environment. There are further poetic takes on pieces from the duo’s beloved Americana songbook (“All in Fun,” “Red River Valley,” “Save the Last Dance for Me”), as well as another intense version of a composition by Paul Motian (“Mumbo Jumbo”), an artist whom both the guitarist and bassist knew well. Frisell and Morgan communicate the essence of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and the Frank Sinatra hit “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” so much so that the famous words seem to hang in the air even without a singer. At the center of the album is a pair of pieces by Thelonious Monk: the funky, angular “Epistrophy” and the ruminative ballad “Pannonica.” And as with “Goldfinger” on Small Town, Frisell and Morgan offer a glowing duo interpretation of a melody-rich John Barry title tune from a James Bond film – “You Only Live Twice”. The heart of Epistrophy belongs to Thelonious Monk, with the title track and the ballad “Pannonica,” tunes Frisell calls “magical.” The cover painting – by the late Charles Cajori, part of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists – is also titled Epistrophy.

  1. All In Fun 8:36
  2. Wildwood Flower, Save The Last Day 9:36
  3. Mumbo Jumbo 8:03
  4. You Only Live Twice 8:10
  5. Lush Life 4:37
  6. Epistrophy 7:27
  7. Pannonica 7:07
  8. Red River Valley 8:10
  9. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning 6:55

Label: ECM Records ECM 2626

Bill Frisell electric guitar
Thomas Morgan double bass

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