"Power Tools was a project from 1987 consisting of Bill Frisell on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass & Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums. They only recorded this one album, but it features some of Frisell's most brilliant playing outside of his own projects, imo. Also some of his most aggressive and "outside" playing on record outside of his work with Naked City. There's really nothing else like it in the Frisell catalogue. The material on the disc ranges from lyrical ballads to a couple of funky-in-a-Prime Time-sorta-way numbers by Jackson to absolutely scathing free improv, and the disc closes with a version of the old pop gem "Unchained Melody" which ends with about a minute of solo Frisell doing some hilarious loop mangling. The cd has unfortunately been out of print for years, but if you can find a used copy I highly recommend picking it up."
Manhatten Prana Jungle Musiks
Daya C. Nelson | Lincoln, NE | 03/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This record changed my life. I'm not exaggerating, I was a big fan of Hendrix when I heard this but had not quite made the leap to Coletrane, Ornette, Free Jazz beautiful chaos: this record bridged the gap, opening up music I had been unable to hear before. Kind of like making it through Gravity's Rainbow or Ulyssess and thinking "Now I can read anything!"
This is a true Power Trio in the fullest sense. Yes, Bill Frisell is amazing here, playing with even more raw intensity and sonic fury than with Naked City, this is hardcore shredding, but the superb sense of melody and space that Frisell nearly always displays gives his playing a truly satisfying balance not available elsewhere in my opinion.
And why, you ask, is this such a departure for him? Ronald Shannon Jackson. The man is a force of nature who, left to his own devices, tends to cloud the purity of his rhythm with a sometimes tin ear and a penchant for overblowing arrangements. Melvin Gibbs (who later played bass with the Henry Rollins Band) is absolutely indispensible as well, calling Jackson and raising until the effect is seriously scorching, withering, like standing to close to the fire.
I have always loved the purity of the trio, whether it be rock, jazz, or classical, this record is a brilliant example of the form at its best. If only it would be rereleased, my vinyl copy is wearing out."
Jazz Power Trio
chuckles_mcgroover | Los Angeles | 02/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wadmalaw Island will forever be stuck in my head. So somber, soulful, and honest. Another stand-out track for me is Howard Beach Memiors. Frisell charts some very trippy territory with his loops, and Gibbs and Jackson provide solid grounding, both refined and raw. This band has the sensitivity to map out the most subtle and ethereal of emotional landscapes, and the bottom end to shoot the rapids with skill and guts. Aside from the obligatory nod to Jazz history (which provides some flavor and schoolbook context), this a very positive and fresh direction for Jazz."
nnylg | Honolulu, HI USA | 09/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know where Bill was at when he recorded this, but the contrast of his ethereal swooping (occasionally crashing) lines with the earthy, rough-edged thunder of Gibbs and Jackson has a terrible beauty that I have developed an insatiable appetite for, after repeated listenings. And being Bill, the dynamics range from the whispy loops at the end of Unchained Melody (beautiful - poignant, even) to totally screaming Hendrix-esque dive-bombs interspersed among the occasional lilting melody. While I enjoy Bill's other stuff (even the one where he's got Elvin Jones playing like he's comatose), I'd really like to see this dialogue continued. Everyone else is doing sequels - what the hey!"