Somewhere between the three-hour over-and-out recording sessions that were the norm in the days of jazz yore, and the infinitesimal edits, electronic tweaking, and microcosmic overdubs favored by some musicians today, lies a more leisurely process of artistic evolution. Corporate economics don’t support a time-consuming process but fans understand, and because ArtistShare has created an environment where they, the fans can watch and participate in various ways, the creative process is very much alive and thriving for artists today. The Jim Hall/Bill Frisell Hemispheres double-CD is a prime example, taking 18 months unfold. There was a delay caused by Hall’s major back surgery, but the lapsed time was well spent thinking and practicing and listening. When 13-year-old Jim Hall first heard a Charlie Christian recording, his world changed. He learned about his craft, and about life, by listening to the music and to the words of his mentors. To this day, 65 years later, Hall still maintains that “listening is the key.” When Bill Frisell first started listening to Jim Hall he never imagined that he’d be recording with him. Later he studied with Hall, and much later, after he recorded two tunes with Hall back in 1995 (on Hall’s “Dialogues” CD for Telarc), he began to dream of creating a sonic landscape for Hall to improvise over. His dream came true. Hemispheres began as a duo recording. The five sessions spread out between July and December 2007 took place in a small, intimate studio and yielded far-ranging material that included a mixture of standards and original compositions. Among the newest pieces are several on-the-spot improvisations, the most daring of which is the 15-minute Migration, recorded live, no over dubs! Project participants were able to see it with their own eyes when the video was posted online. Bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron joined Hall and Frisell for the September 2008 quartet session that followed Hall’s three-month hospitalization and subsequent recuperation. “Seeing Jim play his heart out was an emotional five hours,” recalls Jane Hall. “Joy was the major emotion, joy about the music, the other musicians, the camaraderie, the vibe, the listening, and of course the love that permeated the studio. The privilege of witnessing and listening to these phenomenal musicians create what is in my mind Jim’s best music is one I shall always treasure.” Another discerning listener is composer Maria Schneider who raved about Hemispheres in an email to her entire ArtistShare fan-base; “the intimacy captured by this recording is a rare, rare thing. The music hovers in the air and draws you into its stillness; music that transcends genre.” Visual artists also had the opportunity to participate in this project by submitting their entries for a cover art contest. The harmonic mingling of colors and shapes in the music is mirrored in the cover art by contest winner Susan Warin. After the selection was made it was learned that the Ms. Warin is a prolific abstract painter who attends Sophie’s Gallery, a working art studio and gallery where developmentally disabled adults are empowered to surmount developmental and physically challenges by expressing themselves through their art. A Seattle writer described Frisell as “one of the world’s most innovative and unpredictable jazz guitarists and composers,” and the same could be said of Hall, who has long been one of Frisell’s mentors and friends. Describing music with words is difficult, and labeling the styles of Hall and Frisell is likely a futile exercise. Both artists resist the desire of others to put them in a box, citing the tired-but-true concept that life, and the pursuit of music, is a journey. “You know, you have to go somewhere to get somewhere,” says Frisell. Patience, a key component for any successful journey, was well exercised by the musicians as they listened, assessed, and interacted together in order to create something new and unplanned. The fans may have held their collective breath, watching the journey progress through twists and turns, providing encouragement through their participation. Participant Eliza Callahan was barely school-age when she first heard jazz at home and started guitar lessons soon after. She never imagined that she’d have behind-the-scenes access to see her heroes in action. All four musicians, ranging in age from 45 to 78, have the insatiable curiousity and open mindedness of the very young. This is the spirit that makes the re-examining of even the old chestnuts seem as new and fresh as the free-improvisations. Sweet sounds and dissonance, sometimes upside down or inside out, these intrepid explorers cover a whole world of possibilities – both hemispheres and more.

Originally posted 2008-12-08 19:38:33.