On Unspeakable, guitarist Bill Frisell and producer Hal Willner (Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed) take a freewheeling, idiosyncratic approach to the modern art of music sampling, in a groove and-soul based project.Where a hip hop artist or deejay /mixer might appropriate samples of old R&B, funk or jazz as the actual building blocks of a track, Frisell and Willner employ often obscure songs and sounds culled from vintage vinyl as the jumping off-point for their own sonic explorations, with choice fragments borrowed and integrated into original compositions. More often than not, the pair simply sample the ideas and/or moods of the various sides Willner has unearthed, then create something entirely new from this found-object inspiration. And Willner had a lot to choose from: as music supervisor for Saturday Night Live, he was free to prowl the well-stocked record library of the NBC Studios in Manhattan. Unspeakable can have a fierce and infectious groove at times, and at others will adopt a more relaxed and reflective feel.
With Willner manning the turntables, Frisell is accompanied by frequent session-mates Tony Scherr (bass), Kenny Wollesen (drums) and Steve Bernstein (trumpet, horn arrangements). Don Alias is featured on percussion and synth player Adam Dorn, who cuts his own club-friendly jazz-and-R&B-based albums under the name Mocean Worker, appears on two of the funkier tracks, “White Fang” and “Del Close.”Early in each of their careers, Frisell and Willner collaborated on Willner’s groundbreaking 1981 multi-artist tribute to Nina Rota’s musicfor the films of Fellini. The pair crossed paths more recently while working on the score for Wim Wenders’ “Million Dollar Hotel” with Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and Bono. During those sessions, Willner observed Frisell playing, just for fun, in a dance band and decided then and there that he’d found the perfect format for a joint venture, something the relentlessly genre-bending Frisell hadn’t actually tried before: dance music. Says Willner, “We wanted to make a beautiful, fun record that was still a Bill Frisell record. I think we succeeded.”