Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

ECM 2525
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Although Bill Frisell has appeared as a sideman on recent ECM recordings, such as the Andrew Cyrille Quartet’s The Declaration of Musical Independence (2016), he hasn’t led a session for the label since Lookout for Hope (1988). Small Town is co-credited to him and to double bassist Thomas Morgan, but Frisell gets top billing -- for him, it’s effectively a return to ECM.

Guitarist has worked with bassist before, notably on The Windmills of Your Mind, drummer Paul Motian’s final recording. Morgan’s skills have led to his appearance, at a somewhat young 35, on more than 30 recordings. Frisell and Morgan recorded the duets on Small Town in March at the Village Vanguard, where in 1984 Frisell, Motian, and Joe Lovano had recorded a live album for ECM, It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago.

Small Town

Frisell and Morgan begin by revisiting that album’s title track, by Motian. The music unfolds slowly, Morgan filling in around Frisell and giving the song a firm grounding. Frisell uses a looper pedal to build layers of sound, and plays simple but affecting melodies and intervals to create a contemplative atmosphere that Morgan enriches with countermelodies and rhythmic drive. Near the end, Frisell uses the looper to create a backward-tape sound that closes the track on an otherworldly note.

Frisell and Morgan play “Subconscious Lee” as a tribute to its composer, Lee Konitz, who was in the audience for one of these shows. Frisell plays the song without effects, and the result is one of his most straightforward performances, as Morgan provides a bouncy, melodic background. Frisell’s “Song for Andrew No.1” debuted on The Declaration of Musical Independence, but in this performance Morgan takes on Andrew Cyrille’s job of providing a rhythmic center, while Frisell uses effects to create a haunting atmosphere as he probes the melody.

Small Town

Frisell first recorded “Wildwood Flower,” a song made popular by the Carter Family, on Ghost Town (2000). He and Morgan stay true to the song’s country heritage while taking great improvisational flights. Morgan’s solo is jaunty and loose, while Frisell’s fingerpicking and solos take the song apart from different angles without losing track of its center. The spring reverb and low guitar notes in “Goldfinger” evoke the mid-1960s world of the early James Bond films; Frisell’s interpretation is witty, but respectful of film composer John Barry’s melodies and the possibilities suggested by the theme’s opening chord progression.

Morgan gives Frisell the support he needs for his improvisations, whether in the expansively contemplative “Poet-Pearl” or the more straightforward “What a Party,” a Fats Domino tune that sounds very much like a tribute to Gabor Szabo, a guitarist I’ve long felt must have influenced Frisell. Throughout Small Town, Frisell and Morgan interact intuitively, feeding each other ideas that they then expand and build on.

Small Town

Recording engineers James A. Farber and Paul Zinman put you at a center table at the Village Vanguard, and the occasional cough or clinked glass gives the ambiance a live immediacy. More important, the instruments register cleanly and accurately. Morgan’s double bass is large and full, and Frisell’s sweeping chords expand to fill the room. I felt I was in the Vanguard with this formidable duo for these moments of inspiration. They should do this kind of recording as often as they wish.

. . . Joseph Taylor