Pianist JP Schlegelmilch Reinvents Bill Frisell
Among his many projects, multi-keyboardist JP Schlegelmilch plays in the eclectically tuneful Old Time Musketry, whose debut album Different Times was ranked among the top fifteen jazz releases of 2012 here last year. His latest album, Throughout: The Music of Bill Frisell, reinterprets compositions from across the career of this era’s greatest jazz guitarist. That these works would translate so well to piano almost goes without saying: Frisell is unsurpassed as a tunesmith. What’s most impressive and enjoyable here is that Schlegelmilch gets it: the lyricism, the bittersweetness, the darkness and also the wit. Most of the material comprises smaller-ensemble pieces from the mid-80s through the 90s, the period where Schlegelmilch probably fell under the composer’s spell.
Throughout, from Frisell’s collaboration with Petra Haden, opens the album, simple lingering rainy-day harmonies edging steadily through shifting shadows, an angst-fueled, elegantly waltzing nocturne. Rag – from the Is That You? album – is a particularly apt choice for piano, veering from lively, precise, Brubeck-esque precision to a more aberrant groove as the song picks up steam. Another track from that album, Twenty Years, the oldest one here, works a brooding modal vamp. Resistor, dating from the 1984 Rambler album, gets reinvented with a suspensefully witty minimalist syncopation and lefthand stride allusions. Hangdog, from Frisell’s 1991 live album, gets a similar, more melodically and rhythmically free treatment before Schlegelmilch gives it a dancingly phantasmagorical, Frank Carlberg-esque edge
There are three tracks here from Frisell’s landmark 1994 album This Land. Jimmy Carter Pt. 2 is reinvented as a hypnotic staccato bounce – this is the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy Carter, busy putting up shingles. Monica Jane gets a somber gospel noir interpretation, while the title track gives Schlegelmilch a lot of territory to cover and he does, from Lynchian modal ripple and gleam to a panoramic pastorale.
Child At Heart and Beautiful E – a diptych from 1991’s Where in the World – sees Schlegelmilch building guitarlike sustain with a rippling staccato attack before winding down to a judiciously resonant lyricism and then up again with a towering, majestic intensity: it’s the most breathtaking track here. The album winds up with a stunningly straightforward, haunting take of the Elvis Costello collaboration Deep Dead Blue, going deep inside to find its pitchblende core. It’s a brilliant way to end this fascinating and often riveting album, a good segue with Frisell’s just-released Big Sur.
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