Using four main instruments -- guitar, violin, viola and cello -- the 858 Quartet is able to create complex sound structures. The absence of human voice seems to extend the subtleties of this work.
Impressively, all the compositions are credited to Frisell. After listening through the album I see how significant an achievement this is. All arrangements are given the group treatment, done by musicians Jenny Scheinman, Eyvind Kang, Hank Roberts and of course Bill Frisell himself.
Call and response between harmonic guitar notes and tastefully dissonant strings are prominent throughout the album. There is a "together" vibe inherent in the music. I can easily picture the quartet huddled near each other, feeding off one another's energy, honing their craft. The simplest art forms of folk tradition are multiplied, expanded upon and perfected by the group. Bill Frisell is known for his unique take on the world of jazz; Sign of Life spins that world in a new direction.
Written by Joshua Edwards, Music Department
On the KDHX Charts: #1 Jazz for May 17, 2011.