Gregg Belisle-Chi has played with Bill Frisell, and perhaps that’s the key. Frisell has always straddled that fence, sometimes jumping down on either side and running around for a bit before hopping back up. Belisle-Chi is obviously influenced by this aesthetic, making music that fits in between genres, hopefully squeezing into a nice little vacant lot of his own–at least with Book of Hours. In the past, Belisle-Chi has done a lot of different things. His first album, Tenebrae, was composed for guitar and voice, and the follow-up, I Sang to You and the Moon, featured guitar, voice, bass and trumpet. Book of Hours was originally conceived as an album for a nine-piece jazz/chamber ensemble. I’m not going to second-guess Belisle-Chi’s choices here, but something tells me that version might not have been so original, and so unexpected.
Fortunately, Gregg Belisle-Chi’s Book of Hours doesn’t require you to convert to understand. Taken at face value, this is a stunning album of jazz-rock that’s never boring, even in its most reflective moments. As with Frisell, Gregg Belisle-Chi is a musician who can extract a maximum amount of emotion from a minimum of flashy technique. Manski’s Wurlitzer is a vital contributor, bringing along a lot of the mystery we feel from the sacred part of masses, that feeling where we are surrounded by spirits and ghosts and things we will never understand. Book of Hours adds up to that divine sense of uniqueness, of something that presents no easy answers but a multitude of excellent questions.
Images courtesy of greggbelislechi.com.