“The Music of Glen Deven Ranch” begins with a splendid chord. Then Jenny Scheinman’s violin-chirps lead into a big, open, expansive-mood melody. It’s the first episode of this 19-song suite commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival and written by guitarist Bill Frisell during a retreat at the Big Sur ranch of the opening tune’s title. The song titles describe the place, and the music is a multidimensional tour-de-force, generated by a modest quintet: Frisell and Scheinman with violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts, and drummer Rudy Royston. “Going to California,” with Royston’s rolls and the lumbering mood of the others, sounds an epic account of weary travelers who have had more flats than spares, but it’s followed by the cool surf-pop groove of “The Big One.” A long, pensive violin/viola intro opens into a splashy, sometimes dissonant quintet piece called “Gather Good Things.” “Cry Alone” is sad and lovely, driven solemnly by Royston. Another highlight is “Highway 1.” The band inhabits a beautifully quirky space, summoning a tripster along California’s coastal road, besotted with impressions. The strings are just marvelous. The suite is an amazing testament to how a place can coax so much from a musical genius. Frisell, confronted by the Big Sur environment, “filled up pages and pages,” he said. “The music just kept coming.” We’re glad.
— Paul Weideman
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