Bill Frisell: Sign of Life: Music for 858 Quarter (Savoy Jazz)

A monster guitarist, Bill Frisell is adept at playing bebop, rock, free jazz, blues, noisy skronk, pop, country and bluegrass. For this outing, he convened a chamber-jazz ensemble featuring violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang and cellist Hank Roberts—all righteous avant-garde players on their own—to play 17 Americana-influenced compositions that combine the influences of Kronos Quartet, Gil Evans and Aaron Copland, among others.

Like about 20 other Frisell albums—including Lágrimas Mexicana, a collaboration with Brazilian vocalist-guitarist Vinicius Cantuária, released earlier this year—this one was produced by Lee Townsend, who has also been behind admirable productions by such artists as Charlie Hunter, John Scofield, Viktor Krauss and Crooked Still.

Frisell plays all over the disc, but his songs here seem to give more attention to the three string players. He mostly strolls along, playing rhythm and eschewing wild guitar solos. The bouncy charm of "Suitcase in My Hand" is hard to resist, as is the plucked lushness of "Old Times." The repetitive mantras of "Sixty Four" and "Wonderland," a minimalist fever dream, will cause some listeners to flash on the work of composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

The melody on "It's a Long Story" pops up in two different iterations, subtitled Parts One and Two, and it seems to intimate a connection with the soul, sounding like a distant, Appalachian cousin to Curtis Mayfield's R&B classic "People Get Ready." But the effect is subtle.

This is a recording to weave into the fabric of your day.