Fred Hersh & Bill Frisell Songs We Know
Down Beat Review January 1999
3 1/2 Stars
The Jazz duo-from the Louis Armstrong-Earl Hines get-togethers onward-remains the most intimate form of improvisational sharing. It's more about blending and two-way communication than about solo extemporizing and spotlight seeking.
As in a marraige, each partner in this Fred Hersh-Bill Frisell musical merger shares some of the blame for it's weaknesses. Hersch uses occasional brittle dissonance and some Monkisms in his mostly failed attempt to avoid the stylistic domination of Bill Evans. And Frisell loses his distinctiveness on this type of material. It's to his credit, however, that he wisely shuns much of the twangy thing that makes up his style-it just wouldn't have worked the way things are set up here.
This collection of standards, a couple of jazz classics and a widely know Brazilian work, is most effective on "It Might Be Spring," "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," "Blue Monk," ""My Little Suede Shoes" and, in especially cogent fashion, "Yesterdays." On the aforementioned tunes, thers a meeting of the minds within largely lyrical frameworks, as well as inspired intersecting lines.
Things go less well on "Someday My Prince Will Come," "What is This Thing Called Love?" and, particularly, "I Got Rhythm," where a certain corniness is allowed to enter.
Perhaps what Hersch and Frisell should have done was to work largely with original tunes, then really throw into the mix a combination of their stylistic differences: Let Frisell bend notes around Hersch's rhapsodic flourishes, as Hersch has done here and there with his use of discordant elements. The point is that as great as standards can be, they work here as a lyrical noose for Hersch.-Will Smith
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