Bill Frisell: In Line (ECM 1241)

ECM 1241 CD

Bill Frisell
In Line

Bill Frisell electric and acoustic guitars
Arild Andersen bass
Recorded August 1982 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

I had the great fortune of seeing Bill Frisell by his lonesome in the summer of 2009 at Northampton’s Iron Horse, where he employed a rather modest set of equipment consisting mainly of digital pedal delays, unfolding from one guitar a ghostly map of sound. This process of self-generation seems to have always been at the heart of his musical output, and no album approaches that feeling as intimately as In Line. His sound is so full that bassist Arild Andersen’s reverberating swaths of darkness reveal an inner voice of the guitar in “Start” and carry Frisell’s suggestive lilts to distant conclusions. Andersen’s role is not to be ignored, sharing as he does a sensual conversation with Frisell in “Three” and providing a tearful backdrop to “Godson Song.” Here, Frisell’s guitar also gently weeps, slithering under the bass’s watchful eye, ever at the edge of naivety. The intertwining electrics of “Two Arms” tighten like a finger trap into a wormhole toward “Shorts,” which recalls childhood with its unintended (?) allusion to “Three Blind Mice.” These brief flashes of nostalgia make their way carefully down the spiral staircase of “Smile On You” and out onto “The Beach,” a stunning soundscape for processed electrics that moves like a train through a tunnel and crests atop Andersen’s slithering harmonics. The title track steps out of the album’s default monochrome with the gamelan colors of its detuned acoustics. The more clean-cut leads take us farthest in a final blissful gasp.

ECM 1241 LP
Original cover

Yet if we’re going to talk about bliss, then our lips must shape the word “Throughout,” which names the album’s most inescapable embrace. This piece would also provide the basis for Gavin Bryars’ heavenly 1986 adaptation, Sub Rosa. The chord progression itself speaks volumes and gives breath to the lead electric as it sings with all the restraint at its disposal.

Like an opera singer who cuts through all the trained vibrato now and then with that single crystalline note, Frisell’s phrasings tremble on a watery surface, glinting occasionally with the light of a distant sun. In that light is hope, and this hope one encounters ECM’s core philosophy of silence. If you only own one Frisell album, make it this.

<< Meredith Monk: Turtle Dreams (ECM 1240 NS)
>> Miroslav Vitous: Journey’s End (ECM 1242)

6 thoughts on “Bill Frisell: In Line (ECM 1241)

  1. Just found your invaluable website in the course of researching an ECM 50th overview as the Big Ears Festival approaches. Wanted to send a wave of thanks, and to agree wholeheartedly about ‘Throughout’, which is one of the compositional marvels of the universe. I’ve performed it many times, and if I ever get back on stage, it will always be in the set.

    Thanks for the great resource here.


  2. I have a question about “Maurizius” from Eberhard Weber’s Later That Evening (ECM, 1982) and “Throughout” from Bill Frisell’s In Line (ECM 1983), which are very similar in terms of their style and mood, except the tempo of “Maurizius” is faster.

    I heard “Throughout” for the first time in Seoul, South Korea in 2003 when a friend of mine played it at an all-night jazz club jam session.

    Since then, I’ve loved the piece and later I found “Maurizius” from Weber’s album featuring the crystal-clear piano touch of Lyle when I bought a copy of the LP record. Bill Frisell was the guitarist at the Later That Evening session one year before the recording of his In Line album.

    Did Bill intentionally copy Eberhard’s piece as a form of dedication? I mean, “Throughout” is a great tune and can even be regarded as an iconic ECM piece by Bill. But I’d like to know how two pieces came to sound so similar.

    1. This is an intriguing connection. It might very well be the suggestion of Weber’s influence, whether intentionally or not. Given Bill’s involvement in the Weber recording and the timing of his solo record, the possibility cannot be ignored. Also, given that Gavin Bryars arranged it as his piece “Sub Rosa,” it might just be one of those timeless moods and chord progressions that seems to develop an afterlife of its own volition. I will do some more research about this and let you know if I find out anything more.

  3. It’s a gorgeous Sunday here in Hendersonville, my wife sitting and knitting, us just back from a morning hike. The breeze is blowing flower scented air through our house. My wife asked me what would be nice to play on our Echo – and this album came to me – one I’ve not listened to in many years. It is just simply lovely. (by the way Tyran, my wife and I saw Bill Frisell a few years ago in Carrboro NC in a quartet setting – he seemed almost shy, totally immersed in his guitar and the interplay between his group members. He seems a gentle soul. We loved the concert immensely. We also saw him two other times – with Jan Garbarek in his Paths, Prints quartet (one of the greatest concerts of my life), and with Charles Lloyd. All were such gifts to attend.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s