Downbeat's Blindfold Test June 2002 by Ted Panken
Bill Frisell's latest album, Blues Dream (Nonesuch)-an ambitious suite compromising 17 compositions for septet-is an exhaustive exporlation of the blues as such, referencing styles that span Nashville to Ellington. It upholds the 48-year-old guitarist's customary standard of excellence. For his second Blindfold Test, we tried to do  justice to his scope.
RICHARD LEO JOHNSON
"Sweet Jane Thyme" (from
Language, Blue Note, 2000) Johnson, 12-string and pedal steel guitar.

I'm baffled. The acoustic guitar reminded me of Leo Kottke, and kind of echoey, shadowy guitar behind it reminded me of Daniel Lanios with Brian Eno. (after) There was one person? The song was cool and pleasent, but didn't knock me out. I'm curious to hear how that piece is juxtaposed to the other things on the record. I could almost hear it in a film, against something very powerful. 4 stars.

JIM HALL-PAT METHANY
"Django" (from
Arrangement, Telarc, 1995) Hall, Metheny, acoustic guitars.

That's "Django." When the strings come in, Jim Hall came to mind. I heard one guitar, then another, and didn't recognize the sound. When the first guitarist started playing nylon string, I heard some Pat Metheny stuff. I knew Jim and Pat did a duet record, but this isn't that, so I figured this must be Jim's record where he did those arrangements. Thank God I got that right! Both sound quite different than you'er used to hearing. But it's interesting how, without [Metheny] playing, the strings fired a response that made me think of Jim Hall right away. 5 stars.

JOHN McLAUGHLIN
"Only Child" (from
Time Remembered, Verve, 1993) McLaughlin, acoustic guitar; Aighetta Quartet, acoustic guitars; Yan Maresz, acoustic bass guitar.

At first I couldn't tell how many guitars were playing; there's a very low-tuned guitar, and I didn't recognize the tune. The i wondered if someone had a 7 string; it had the lush quality of Johnny Smith or George Eps. Then I knew it was John McLaughlin playing Bill Evans songs with a guitar quartet. It sounded exquisitely beautiful. He keeps on being one of my heros. Once after a Shakti concetrt I almost quit playing the guitar. I realized that I had to figure out something else to do. He's known for being fast, but he's very soulful, and so far-out rhythmically and harmonically. 5 stars.

BAR KOKHA
"Hazor" ( from
Zevulun, DIW, 1997) Marc Ribot, guitar; Erik Friedlander, cello; Mark Feldman, violin; Greg Cohen, bass; Joey Baron, drums; Cyro Baptista, percussion; John Zorn, composer.


Is it Ribot? So it's the Prosthetic Cubans. (no) Then what? (after) I haven't listened to this. The guitar was dominant, si I thought it was Mark's thing. That's Cyro, and Erik Friedlander on cello. I've heard so much about that band. I liked it alot. I should have known the melody, but with the Latinish feeling, I got sidetracked. 5 stars.

GEORGE BENSON
"Hipping The Hop" (from
Absolute Benson, Verve, 2000) Benson, guitar; Joe Sample, piano, composer.

At odd convergence of styles; at first I thought it was smooth jazz. Is this from the album Mark Whitfield did recently? Wait. It's from George Benson's new one. It's a little on the light side. The straightahead and funk parts go back and forth; both ends are restrained. How is it I get in a position of talking about George Benson like I'm some kind of big shot? He's a giant. I guess it's context; he always sounds good. It would be great to hear him just play some tunes with Ron Carter and whomever. 5 stars for him; 4 for the arrangement.

LIBERTY ELLMAN
"Blood Count" (from
Orthodoxy, Red Giant, 1997) Ellman, guitar; Vijay Ayer, piano.

I'm pretty sure it's Steve Swallow. It's not? That's a guitar? It's awfully low-pitched. Now you've got me really screwed up! It has the pure tone Steve Swallow gets in between a guitar and a bass. (after) I really liked it. I've got to check him out. 5 stars. Who was the piano player? I don't know him either! Moments like that I notice maybe I've been away from New York too much. Not one person on this record I've heard of. I'm old. I'm a has been!
Credited to Julie Kremen