Anyone who's followed Bill Frisell through his last few albums will not be surprised by the guitarist's latest recording. Though he has certainly left a sizable imprint on the contemporary jazz guitar genre, Frisell has become increasingly devoted to his own sonic worldview, making music with a variable allegiance to jazz, but thoroughly steeped in sun-baked country, blues, and American folk. Blues Dream catches Frisell in pretty much the same place he's been, but the music is so gloriously realized, it's hard to imagine him doing anything else. Paced like a lazy river and overflowing with dreamy refrains and warped Americana, Blues Dream does nothing more than collect Frisell's favorite textures, licks, and experiments from the last few years and consolidate them into a rich, evocative, and shining whole.
Frisell's regular touring quartet, including drummer Kenny Wollesen, bassist David Piltch, and lap steel/dobro player Greg Leisz, forms the core of this ensemble. Due to these four guys, Blues Dream resonates with the warm, hazy Americana Frisell explored on 1999's Good Dog, Happy Man; the subtle detail and electronic experimentation of Frisell's solo effort, last year's Ghost Town; and the almost unrepentant country of 1996's Nashville, which resurfaces with a vengeance in the twangy "Pretty Stars Were Made to Shine." To the quartet Frisell added a horn section comprising trumpeter Ron Miles, saxophonist Billy Drewes, and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes. Both Fowlkes and Miles turned up for Frisell's cartoonish and immensely creative 1996 recording, Quartet, and on tunes such as "Like Dreamers Do (Part Two)" or the starry "What Do We Do?" the horns bring tart levity and soul kick to Frisell's lyrical music. The only recent project that doesn't really reflect on Blues Dream is Frisell's power trio documented on 1997's Gone, Just Like a Train. Only the occasional bite in Frisell's guitar alludes to the driving, gritty music he laid out there. Nevertheless, this late-night reverie keeps plenty of piquant moments in store and does plenty fine without it.