By Bill Milkowski | Published July 2020
On Virtue, derived solely from John Zorn compositions, guitarists Bill Frisell, Julian Lage and Gyan Riley place a premium on delicacy, melody and lyricism, while summoning a work reminiscent of The Guitar Trio by John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco De Lucía.
The comparison is immediately apparent on the evocative opener, “Juliana,” inspired by Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century abbess and one of the founders of Christian mysticism. The three guitarists come out of the gate with dazzling virtuosity on this intricate labyrinth of arpeggiations over shifting chords and stop-time terrain. By contrast, the dissonance, dramatic use of space and extended techniques on “Visiones” and “Infernal Night (Sin Is Behovely)” recall Bola Sete’s 1975 solo LP Ocean. The rubato “Divine Revelations” is a more open-ended exploration of tone and texture by the sympathetic trio, and the gently meditative “Per Amica Silencia Lunae” shows uncommon sensitivity and an uncanny group-think. For sheer accessibility, though, it doesn’t get any more buoyant and infectious than “Conveniens.” Tight ensemble work, expertly executed with elegance and impeccable taste by three team players.
John Zorn: Virtue: Juliana; Apart From The World; Visiones; Conveniens; Divine Revelations; Per Amica Silencia Lunae; The Hazelnut; An Orb-Like Canopy Of Gentle Darkness; All Shall Be Well; The Ground Of Our Beseeching; Ancrene Wisse; Infernal Night (Sin Is Behovely). (46:25)
Personnel: Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, Gyan Riley, guitar.