april 2019

Photo by John Rogers

An amazingly exploratory performance that ties together a lost colleague, a fabled basement club, and some breathtaking improvisations.

Few musical situations are as intimate and rewarding as playing in a duo. All your thoughts and energy are focused on reacting to how another human is interpreting time, feel, and tone. For guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan, that connection is deep and thankfully documented on their latest ECM album, Epistrophy, which is out on April 12th. It’s a continuation of the duo’s previous album for the label, Small Town, and actually was recorded at the same week-long gig at jazz’s most hallowed of halls, the Village Vanguard, in March of 2016.

Although Morgan and Frisell are a generation apart, several common threads connect them. For many years Frisell had a yearly engagement at the Vanguard with his wildly exploratory trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and shape-shifting drummer Paul Motian. Sadly, Motian passed away in November of 2011 but the sessions for his last album, Windmills of Your Mind, brought Frisell and Morgan together in a quartet with vocalist Petra Haden for an incredible set of standards. “I first met Thomas well before that,” says Frisell. “Joey [Baron] wanted to go over the music for an album [1999’s We’ll Soon Find Out] before Ron Carter got there. Thomas came and played everything just dead-on perfect. Plus, he looks younger than he is, so I thought, ‘Wow, this little kid just came in here and slayed this music.’” (Pro tip: Always prepare for a rehearsal as if it’s a gig.)

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