Bill Frisell’s Melancholic and Divine Harmony
A gentle giant of guitar enlists Petra Haden and others to raise the standard for standards.
When I first heard Harmony, I’d hit a rough patch and my normal diet of grooving music wasn’t cutting it. From the opening strains of the first track, “Everywhere,” I felt as if I’d stepped through the looking glass into an alternative sonic universe, one both melancholic and divine. Ah—just what I needed.
At the center of this strange brew is Petra Haden, whose beautiful, sometimes ethereal voice casts a spell across the entire album, which consists of Frisell originals, standards, and folk songs. Whether it’s Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” or “On the Street Where You Live” by Lerner and Loewe, the quartet—which includes cellist Hank Roberts and guitarist Luke Bergman, both of whom also sing—puts a fresh twist on jazz-leaning vocal ensembles. And were he still alive, I can imagine Pete Seeger wiping away a tear after hearing his “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” rendered so poignantly. Throughout Harmony, Frisell’s guitar rings like a bell, and his rich voicings recall jazz piano genius Bill Evans. Moody sounds for tumultuous times. —Andy Ellis
Must-hear tracks: “God’s Wing’d Horse,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”