By Ed Enright | Published October 2019
On his Blue Note Records debut, veteran guitarist Bill Frisell documents his latest project, a reflection on the near-magical musical kinships he’s forged with various artists during his career. Produced by his longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and recorded by Tucker Martine at Flora Recording & Playback in Portland, Oregon, HARMONY features Frisell in a quartet setting with two longtime collaborators—vocalist Petra Haden and cello player/vocalist Hank Roberts—plus a relative newcomer, Luke Bergman, on acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, bass and voice. It’s a cozy configuration that fosters an up-close and intimate vibe centered around the human voice and rooted in jazz, traditional Americana and chamber music.
Throughout the album, Haden’s ethereal lead vocals and the trio’s quietly powerful harmonies bring new dimensions to Frisell’s music, magnifying the pensive beauty and perpetual patience that mark his guitar playing. Originally commissioned by the FreshGrass Foundation (an organization dedicated to the vitality of contemporary American roots music) and performed at FreshGrass West! in San Francisco during November 2016, HARMONY features eight compositions by Frisell, some from his existing catalog and some brand new: “There In A Dream” by the late bassist Charlie Haden (who had deep musical and personal ties to Frisell), Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” Lerner & Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live,” Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times” and the traditional “Red River Valley.”
The message behind the music is a celebration of a great old American tradition that Frisell fully embraces and clearly articulates in one simple statement: “Let’s just get together and sing.”