More than 35 years into a career that’s flowed freely between many different genres like jazz, rock and Americana, Bill Frisell is almost genre unto himself. The guitarist’s signature blend of warmth and weirdness is on handsome display on his first solo album since 2000, which feels intimate, thanks to Frisell’s liberal use of loops.
On “Thankful,” one of six new compositions that join nine reworked back-catalog titles, he starts with a tender melodic line and gradually layers on accompaniment to create an almost orchestral feel, with just a hint of fuzz. And on an update of his Eighties classic “Rambler,” he explores the folky melody with backing from quirky synth-like tones. Frisell packs the album’s pieces with plenty of tasteful ornament – in addition to acoustic and electric guitar, he also plays bass, ukulele and musicboxes – but as usual, he steers clear of flash: The pleasure of Music Is lies in hearing a master player lose himself in the possibilities of strings, amps, effects and timeless melody. Hank Shteamer