Bill Frisell

Last year, I finally “got” Bill Frisell, and I owe it all to History, Mystery. One of two recording he released in 2008, History, Mystery is soaked in cinematic atmospherics. A two-disc, 30-track behemoth, the first half is haunting, early 20th century-style jazz music from “Mysterio Sympatico,” a multimedia collaboration he performed with local illustrator Jim Woodring. The second is music he composed to accompany NPR’s Stories From the Heart of the Land. Like recent records by ambient metal legends Earth, Frisell uses spare instrumentation to make music that sounds grainy and antique, yet clean and skillful. Nearly everything on History, Mystery is played at the tempo of a slo-mo waltz, something you might hear in a movie dream sequence. His playing is rustic and liquid, like listening to a Ry Cooder track played backwards. His concentrated notes seem to lift themselves off his fretboard to dissipate in thin air. What History, Mystery is, essentially, is the best summation of everything Frisell has been doing over the last several years—meditations on the unifying thread of American music genres, all of it somber, intense, and charmingly odd. If Ken Burns ever does a documentary on what Greil Marcus dubbed “the old, weird America,” Frisell is his man for the soundtrack. (Fellow guitarist Russell Malone opens.) BRIAN J. BARR

Wed., Feb. 25, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2009

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