Nashville (Nonesuch)
Bill Frisell

By Bob Bahr

Guitarist Bill Frisell is one of the current stars of jazz with a unique style that even a casual jazz listener can pick him out. It's not just his tone; it's also his sense of space.

Frisell is also a catholic music listener. Far from being a jazz snob, he'll insert snippets or whole sections of pop songs, country -- you name it -- into one of his pieces. Thus, an album with the theme of Nashville pickin' doesn't come as a shock to Frisell fans. Also not shocking: Nashville is a good album with some great playing.

He recruited Viktor Krauss (Alison's brother, Lyle Lovett's bassist), dobro master Jerry Douglas, and Ron Block and Adam Steffey from Union Station to help with this album, which is indeed slightly twangy, but in a scholarly way. True, it's weird to hear Frisell play Klein electric guitar over the thumping country beat of "Go Jake," songs like "Pipe Down" speak the universal language of musical improvisation and tasty solos.

Folks on this side of the Mason-Dixon line, and those who are fans of the acoustic music movement, will have no trouble embracing Nashville. Perhaps the only stumbling block is vocalist Robin Holcomb, whose cloying, vibrato-laden singing is hard to take, especially on Skeeter Davis' hit, "End of the World."