Album review | JAZZ

Bill Frisell, ‘Big Sur’


Few overt California clichés cling to “Big Sur,” which Bill Frisell wrote in the seclusion of a ranch in the famed Pacific Coast outpost, where many a seeker of America’s — or humanity’s — soul has retreated. Many of the songs have place-related names (“Highway 1,” “Going to California”) and there’s a clear nod to surf-rock on “The Big One.” But this idiosyncratic and highly sympathetic quintet, which features viola, cello, and violin next to Frisell’s guitar and Rudy Royston’s drums, mostly continues its leader’s ongoing articulation of a style that hovers between the poles of chamber music and folk. The group’s art dwells in its savvy colors and counterpoint, the ways it finds open spaces in familiar themes, destabilizing the picture-postcard landscape with an edge of uncertainty. There are 19 songs here, and at some point one feels replete, but they are concise — some in the manner of a sketch that leaves options open, others more decisive, like the sharp coastline vista once the morning fog has cleared. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Going to California”

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