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Disfarmer

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 21, 2009
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$19.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 3 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

The late Michael Disfarmer was an odd, curmudgeonly character in the rural community of Heber Springs, Arkansas, who, despite his anti-social character, chose to record the stark images of his fellow townspeople, during the 1940's and 50's, in cheap black-and-white photographic portraits. Decades after the photographer's passing, a cache of work made by this solitary and oft-reviled man was rediscovered, and he has come to be regarded as an important outsider artist. Among the many drawn to his plain yet deeply evocative pictures was Chuck Helm, Director of the Performing Arts at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, who introduced guitarist and composer Bill Frisell to Disfarmer's oeuvre on the hunch that Frisell might be inspired by it.
Says Helm, the catalyst for Disfarmer, 'To me, Bill Frisell is a uniquely American artist with a distinctive and singular musical voice, like that of Thelonious Monk or Aaron Copland. In his probing yet atmospheric evocations of American vistas I could hear parallels to the emotional truths of Disfarmer's compelling photographs.'
As Helm suspected, Disfarmer's work resonated with Frisell and led to the creation of a touring multimedia work, Disfarmer Project - featuring Frisell, lap steel guitar player Greg Leisz and violinist Jenny Scheinman, plus slides of Disfarmer's photos, displayed on screens. The piece premiered on March 3, 2007 at the Wexner Center, on the campus of Ohio State University. The score was subsequently recorded in Seattle and Nashville, produced by Frisell's longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and also featuring Viktor Krauss on bass. Along with the Frisell's original compositions, he interpolates versions of such tunes as Arthur Crudup's 'That's Alright Mama' and Hank Williams Sr.'s 'I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)' into this subtly yet stunningly beautiful set.
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Digital Booklet: Disfarmer
Digital Booklet: Disfarmer
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 21, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0029358HQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,469 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of seeing this work performed live last April in San Francisco, accompanied by a slide show of Disfarmer's photographs. The live show, which was stunning, featured Frisell playing entirely electric guitar, and the studio version is more acoustic. Consequently, this recording is more layered, subtle and nuanced. While Frisell and this remarkable group of musicians have been mining this particular hybrid of American roots and jazz for several years, to my ears, this work stands alone in depth and beauty. I have only one criticism and that is the next to last cut, which here is nearly three minutes, but live was about ten minutes and just kept building with layer upon layer of solos and loops until I could not stop crying with wonder and joy. My family is originally from the part of the country where the photos were taken and it's difficult for me to describe how deeply I am affected by the marriage of this music with those photos. I've been a huge Frisell fan for many years now, but this is my favorite work. It is as timeless as the photos; yet at the same time, entirely new and completely inspired.
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Format: Audio CD
This is truly a stunning piece of work. I saw the show live and enjoyed it. It was only later, when I bought the CD, that the music really hit me. Even after dozens of listens I still find new nuances and subtleties that had escaped my attention earlier. There is really no one else out there that makes music in this genre. I am not even sure what to call it, but I think for the sake of simplicity, I will just call it "American" music. Frisell seems to effortlessly combine early and late jazz with roots blues influences with modern composition and even a tinge of hard rock (as seen in 'I Am Not a Farmer'). Disfarmer is truly the amalgamation of all forms of "American Roots Music" into a modern jazz cd, truly incredible. Also, it is the best music for driving/road trips I had ever heard.

Incredible, truly incredible work.
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Format: Audio CD
I'll echo the reviewer that said Disfarmer is an American masterpiece. When I heard it for the first time while looking at Disfarmer's fotos in the liner notes, the music immediately resonated with me. I'm originally from the West Texas plains and was moved by the poignant starkness and humbleness of the people in the fotos. Frissell and the other musicians conveyed this sense of time and place masterfully. Also, there is indeed something very meditative about the music. If I do nothing but sit still and just listen with my eyes closed, these plaintive tunes take me to another level, one of beauty and sweetness and peace.

I highly recommend this outstanding CD.
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Format: Audio CD
Bill Frisell is no stranger to mixed-media collaborations. Instead of a movie, he 'collaborates' with the photographs of Mike Disfarmer. Disfarmer took starkly realistic portraits of the Depression-era residents of his Arkansas town. Bill Frisell gathered Greg Leisz on steel guitar & mandolin, Jenny Scheinman on violin, and Viktor Krauss on bass to record this disc. Unsurprisingly, given the instrumentation and the inspiration, this is a very country album. 2008's "History, Mystery" is much jazzier, but in both you have a lot of songs, many of then short, that flow into each other and repeat. The song titles don't repeat, exactly, but the theme of "Farmer" reappears a number of times, and gets more and more haunting each time. Frisell's playing isn't very jazzy, but Leisz and Scheinman play backing notes that no country player would. The hypnotic nature of the music makes it more interesting than you might guess (or in different hands). Since it isn't very jazzy, I think this disc appeals more to Frisell fans than fans of regular jazz guitar.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I live in the town where the local arts center commissioned this piece, so I got to see an early performance of "Disfarmer." I remember enjoying it, but I also remember that it might get lost in translation should Bill Frisell and his little ensemble (Viktor Krauss wasn't there that night) try to record it.

The music accompanied a slideshow of obscure, depression-era photographs taken by some cantankerous man who gave himself the name Disfarmer. It was a strange thing to see. Frisell's modern take on Americana was imposed over something much more antiquated. It did not create a clash, rather it created a strange undercurrent somewhere between Aaron Copland and melancholia.

That's why I wish the visual component were released as well. Having Disfarmer photographs on the inside of the liner notes is a slight help, but I think it wouldn't been nice to have a DVD packaged with the album to give people more context. As an album unto itself without context, it is good. Very good. It's minimal, but not embarrassingly so. Many tracks, particularly the last two, are the kind to make me stop whatever I'm doing and take notice.

But the full visual context would make this very good product even better. At the same time, I don't want to complain about 72 minutes of gently composed music.
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