"IS THAT You?," the latest release by guitarist Bill Frisell, contains sharply contrasting cover versions of two pop tunes: a brash and bluesy remake of the Aretha Franklin hit "Chain of Fools"; and an ultra-cool distillation of the Henry Mancini theme "Days of Wine and Roses." While the former is the album's most accessible track, the latter is more typical of the kind of abstract moodscapes that Frisell is drawn to these days.
Even the more impressionistic pieces, though, are quite distinct from one another. Few guitarists, after all, can match Frisell's resourcefulness when it comes to extracting myriad colors, textures and effects from his instrument. That much becomes obvious the moment Frisell opens the album with the acoustic stirrings of "No Man's Land" before plugging into Hendrixian bends, swoops and squalls on that tune and "Someone in My Backyard.
The title cut, which suggests a 21st-century arrangement of a delta blues, finds Frisell similarly disposed to raw electronics, but on other tunes he opts for long, languid phrases ("The Way Home"), acoustic clarity ("Hello Nellie" and "Hope and Fear") or, in the case of "Twenty Tears," the chiming sound of a banjo. Along the way, he gets some inspired support from keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, tuba and bass player Dave Hofstra and especially drummer Joey Baron.
BILL FRISELL -- "Is That You?" (Elektra/Musician). Appearing Friday and Saturday at One Step Down.