Valentine (Blue Note)

Bill Frisell

Released August 14, 2020

DownBeat Five-Star Review

JAZZ FM 25 Best Jazz Albums of 2020

BBC Music Magazine Greatest Jazz Albums 2020

JazzTimes Top 10 New Jazz Releases of 2020




The debut recording of guitarist Bill Frisell’s trio with bassist Thomas Morgan & drummer Rudy Royston is a wide-ranging 13 song set that mixes Frisell originals new & old, jazz standards, traditional songs, and covers. Valentine explores the creative freedom of the trio format and the profound musical relationship between these three musicians after years of touring.

Track Listing:

1. Baba Drame (Boubacar Traoré) 04:59

2. Hour Glass (Bill Frisell) 02:58

3. Valentine (Bill Frisell) 06:27

4. Levees (Bill Frisell) 06:04

5. Winter Always Turns to Spring (Bill Frisell) 05:10

6. Keep Your Eyes Open (Bill Frisell) 06:05

7. A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing (Billy Strayhorn 07:23

8. Electricity (Bill Frisell) 03:19

9. Wagon Wheels (Peter DeRose / Billy Hill) 04:14

10. Aunt Mary (Bill Frisell) 03:19

11. What the World Needs Now Is Love (Burt Bacharach / Hal David) 05:55

12. Where Do We Go? (Bill Frisell) 03:09

13. We Shall Overcome (Traditional) 06:25


Bill Frisell: electric guitar

Thomas Morgan: double bass

Rudy Royston: drums

Recorded at Flora Recording & Playback, Portland, OR, by Tucker Martine & assisted by Cole Halverson

Mixed by Tucker Martine

Mastered by Greg Calbi

Cover art: Carole D’Inverno

Graphic Design by Luke Jacobs from Perfecto Creative

Photography by Monica Jane Frisell

Produced by Lee Townsend


“Playing together” is a phrase so commonplace it’s easy to forget what it signifies. Of course, there’s the obvious: making music with others, performing as an ensemble, being creative in a group. But the music guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston offer here suggests a specific spin on the idea, one that emphasizes the togetherness of the playing. On Valentine, they consistently and strikingly play as one, voices intertwined, completing phrases as if sharing a single thought. Sometimes, as in the opening to “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” that’s presented in an interwoven statement of melody; elsewhere, as within the swirling pulse of “Baba Drame,” it’s exemplified by the closeness of their improvisation. Even overdubs, as on the haunting, atmospheric “Hour Glass,” are so perfect that everything feels utterly organic. In the liner notes, Frisell credits this closeness to two years spent working on the road, and no doubt that’s part of the magic. But it also seems to stem from a shared sensibility of feeling the music the same way. How else to explain the lopsided cadences in the Monkish blues “Valentine,” a groove that forever sounds as if it’s about to lose its balance yet never does? Or the soulful sweetness they bring to “We Shall Overcome,” so that it seems pop-song bright without losing its hymnlike fortitude? Even though the selections on Valentine hail from a range of styles—Afropop, country-western, Brill Building pop, atmospheric electronica—the performances represent jazz playing at its most sublime. And music seldom gets more “together” than that.

J.D. Considine (DownBeat)