November 2005

Bill Frisell - Richter 858
Songlines SGL SA 1551-2
Format: Hybrid Stereo SACD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell pushes the limits of jazz, forcing music into areas previously unexplored. Thus, he also requires that his listeners push their musical horizons. In Richter 858 he uses as his musical muse eight oil-on-aluminum abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter -- reproductions of which can be found in the excellent liner notes and on the enhanced CD layer.

Backed by the violin, viola, and cello of Jenny Scheinman, Eyvind Kang, and Hank Roberts respectively, Frisell’s guitar, through his electronic manipulations, weaves eight interesting and thought-provoking sonic vistas. This is not easy listening. It requires time to absorb the result of Frisell’s impressions, time to digest his art -- for that is what this album is: musical art. I was struck by the times the music and art meshed, as well as moments when they did not, or didn’t seem to.

Thanks to an excellent sonic transfer of the original stereo analog tapes, you will hear every nuance, bow stroke, strum or pluck.