BILL FRISELL electric & acoustic guitars, loops
MATT CHAMBERLAIN drums, percussion, loop
LEE TOWNSEND production

with guests:
Viktor Krauss acoustic & electric bass
Ron Miles cornet (tracks 1-3,7,8)
Eyvind Kang violin, viola (tracks 1-3,7,8)

All songs by Chamberlain-Frisell-Martine-Townsend
except tracks 9-11 by Chamberlain-Frisell-Martine-Townsend-Krauss
Horn and string arrangements by Bill Frisell
Engineered by Tucker Martine

Blue Note Records


The Decade In Review: Jazz And The Mash-Up

It’s difficult to frame the last 10 years in jazz around its “most important” recordings: What strikes me as most important about this decade is that musically, anything went. In the age of the mash-up and the iPod shuffle — where musically different artists can sit comfortably against each other — jazz’s continual flexibility to incorporate any number of sounds and distill them within a jazz framework is what’s made this decade so refreshing.

So what defines “importance?” The musician in me wants to say that the most important albums were the ones that we believe to be the most musically skillful or adventurous, or those which introduce us to a new exciting voice in jazz — Jason Moran, The Bad Plus and Brian Blade Fellowship come to mind. But what about albums with mass crossover appeal like Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me; or recordings pegged to an event, such as Terence Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina); or Ornette Coleman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning recording Sound Grammar? What about albums that explore a high-concept multimedia project like Bill Frisell’s Disfarmer and Dave Douglas’ Keystone? I think those are all good choices. They all brought attention to the music in creative new ways, and all capture their own snapshots of the 2000s.

One record that really exemplifies that for me is the Bill Frisell/Matt Chamberlain/Lee Townsend/Tucker Martine project Floratone. Taking the Teo Macero approach to production, Townsend and Martine crafted a stunning album from the free studio improvisations of Frisell and Chamberlain. Floratone’s lush production brings in hints of New Orleans jazz, swampy R&B, surf rock and electronic music. But it also feels like an inventive and foward-thinking tapestry of sounds that could have only happened in this decade. — Michael Katzif,

Most Innovative recording of 2007: “They shaped this record that’s really not a jazz record at all. It’s really this swamp language that I found incredibly interesting and beautiful and very different.” — Tom Moon, 2007: The Year in Review from All Songs Considered

“Taking a page from the Miles Davis/Teo Macero playbook, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Matt Chamberlain teamed up with longtime production pals Martine and Townsend to create this studio-collaged musical masterpiece – but Floratone doesn’t sound anything like Bitches Brew or In a Silent Way…. The 11 compositions flow one into another like segments of a steady-moving river – in turns brooding, swampy, choppy, effervescent, and translucent. Chamberlain’s tasteful grooves and accents provide the deepwater impetus, while Frisell’s soulful vamps, plucky palm-mutes, shimmering harmonics, textural twang, and spacey atmospherics weave together into so many currents and undercurrents, as the horn and string lines glide majestically over the surface. As intriguing as it is enjoyable, Floratone is easily one of the best records of 2007.” Guitar Player

“Call it Ambient Americana Sound Sculpting … The music on Floratone is largely based around Chamberlain’s behind-the-beat grooves and Frisell’s left-of-center blues-drenched chords and phrases… it’s not about soloing per se; rather it’s about collective interpretation, exploring all possible nuances.

Floratone shares much, in fact, with Teo Macero’s collage-like approach to sculpting In a Silent Way, though with modern digital editing the integration is so seamless that it’s often impossible to differentiate between live performance and studio construction. Not that it matters. The greatest success of Floratone is how organic, how natural the music sounds, the considerable technology behind it notwithstanding. Despite all the electronic textures used from conception to final realization, it’s a distinctive, extremely appealing and visual collection of sonic landscapes.

There are those who believe that democratic/leaderless projects are inherently doomed to failure. Floratone is a modern masterpiece—a completely equitable collaboration between Frisell, Chamberlain, Townsend and Martine—that lays such claims to waste.” John Kelman, All About Jazz

“This is some of the most vital and exciting guitar work Bill Frisell has ever committed to tape…. Listening to these unlikely swirls of sound is almost like the beginnings of some exotic new language, rising like steam from a swamp. They’re like nothing else….. it’s some of the most riveting instrumental music to emerge this year.” Tom Moon, NPR’s All Things Considered

“The fine-tuned soundscapes maintain a satisfyingly hypnotic menace.” UK Financial Times

“A soundscape bonanza infused with a melange of jazz, country, dub reggae, funk, rock and ambient music.” Dan Ouellette, Billboard

Collaboration seems to suit Bill Frisell…. Although Floratone is more of a studio creation than I might like‚ the end result is just too much fun to dismiss on technicalities.

Floratone came out of a 2005 jam session between Frisell and expolsive, ever-versatile drummer Matt Chamberlain. Frisell responds to Chamberlain’s over-stimulus with a nasty‚ unfiltered buzz saw sound that kicks you in the ass and says‚ “That…was an attention-getter!”

After the session‚ Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend‚ got out the digital chisel and sculpted the raw tracks into an 11-song set that suggests a Frankenstein-like melding of Wes Montgomery‚ Robert Johnson and the White Stripes. The producers brought in bassist Viktor Krauss – another cohort of Frisell’s-to anchor the tunes‚ while texture and scope were added with carefully placed contributions from cornetist Ron Miles and violist Eyvind Kang.

A lot of Floratone is atmospheric‚ but there’s lightning in the atmosphere.
Your attention stays riveted through “The Wanderer‚” which is a good walk spoiled by encroaching memory. “Mississippi Rising” lays down a chugging swamp groove that rolls over you like a runaway freight train. The funk-jazz “Swamped” and the looped-out “Louisiana Lowboat” take long‚ sweet trips on that same train. Even when things get meditative-on the loping “The Passenger” and the hypnotic “Take a Look”-the aggressive tone never really wanes.

Martine and Townsend share equal billing with Frisell and Chamberlain on the album’s cover‚ showing that this matrix is bigger than the usual artist/producer relationship. Of all Frisell’s collaborations‚ Floratone may be his most productive. And a productive Bill Frisell is a very good thing. – J.Hunter, State of Mind

It’s not hard for the producer to be forgotten when there are musicians such as guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Matt Chamberlain running around getting all the credit. It’s all too easy for people to notice the virtuoso talent of the players and forget they’re not the only ones who had a hand in putting together what you’re hearing – and that’s why Blue Note supergroup Floratone was put together, a band which gives the same billing to its two producers Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend as to its two players. This is probably down to the way the record was put together, apparently Frisell and Chamberlain had a series of sessions together and sent all the recordings over to Martine and Townshend, who proceeded to chop and edit these jams into ‘proper’ tracks. On sending the tracks back to Frisell and Chamberlain they recorded more parts and brought in able help from Eyvind Kang (on viola), Ron Miles (on cornet) and Viktor Krauss (on bass) to add the finishing touches, and the results are quite astonishing. There is the shadow of Americana and classic folk emerging from Frisell and Chamberlain’s carefully measured playing, but everything has been reframed by Martine and Townsend in such a way that you could almost be listening to an album of haunting soundscapes. It’s rare to hear a jazz album (for want of a better term) with this kind of attention to detail, it’s just a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end and somehow manages to avoid all the pitfalls of blending jazz and electronics by being straightforward and innovative without sacrificing any of the players’ musical virtuosity. More than merely an experiment, this is an album which demands the immediate attention of those of you interested in the sound of modern jazz from the very fringes. –