Bill Frisell East West

East West is a more typical affair for Bill Frisell than his widescreen, Grammy-winning effort Unspeakable from last year. It’s an altogether more compact affair with Frisell in a trio format, with long-time associate Kenny Wolleson on drums and bassists Viktor Krauss (on tracks recorded live on the West coast) and Tony Sherr (representing the East). East West is populated mostly by conceptual covers versions, which are rendered somewhat abstract by Frisell’s still-edgy playing. After years of high plains drifting in a more pastoral mode, his playing here dominates the proceedings. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is full of menace, and the following wobbly blues of "Blues for Los Angeles” is probably his most aggressive persona on record, channelling a digital Jimi Hendrix. Of course, Frisell will always inject wistfulness and resolution into everything he does, and some songs like "Goodnight Irene” and "People” (yep, Babs Streisand) walk a fine line between pretty and schmaltzy. At worst, the arrangements of tracks like "Days of Wine and Roses” are dull and resemble any number of half-decent mainstream guitarists. But his way with effects combined with his ability to balance tension with sunshine is still impressive. (Nonesuch)