As the title suggests, each disc was cut on a different coast. Disc One, "West," was recorded in Yoshi’s in Oakland, Calif., with help from bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Kenny Wolleson. Disc Two, "East," was recorded in the Village Vanguard in NYC with Tony Scherr on bass and acoustic guitar and Wolleson again on drums and percussion.
The 16 tracks are full of all the wonderful noise making, twisted humor, shadowy cartoon landscapes and complex emotions that attracted me to Frisell in the first place. A easily as jetting from one coast to the other, Frisell glides from a mellow, loping, straight-ahead take on "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" to a whacked out distortion- and effects-laden solo that makes you wonder what else is in his grape juice. He gleefully bends standards and covers to his mysterious mission, turning "Goodnight Irene" into a very strange dream and making "Crazy" a just a little scary, really.
But he’s equally capable of rendering a good old song with drop-dead poignancy and genuine emotion, as on "Shenandoah," "Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" and a concise, understated reading of "My Man’s Gone Now."
Also found on the two discs are a handful of favorite Frisell originals - a post-apocalyptic "Blues for Los Angeles"; "Boubacar," which sounds like something right out of a Clint Eastwood Western; "Pipe Down," which here comes comes off like anthem for the thinking neo-punk; and a long, masterful "Ron Carter," which builds slowly and travels through more colors and textures than a transcontinental road trip.
This is unvarnished trio work of the highest caliber. And Frisell, of course, is not the only musician to rise to the challenges inherent in such a small, intimate ensemble: Wolleson, Krauss and Scherr prove to be every bit as much the noise-makers-cum-note-selectors as the guitarist.
There’s also a Further East/Further West set available only on-line. Find it at www.BillFrisell.com.