The CD The Compass, Log and Lead is a feast of string instruments: Fred Frith paints wonderful colors on his acoustic guitar, Carla Kihlstedt (USA) plays violin and the nyckelharpa, a Swedish folk instrument, and Steve Wishart (Australia) has turned the hurdy-gurdy into a modern instrument. For one of Fred Frith’s strengths has always been to tie together unbelievably beautiful folk harmonies with free improvisation, something already heard in his band Skeleton Crew or in the soundtrack to the film Step Across the Border. This is also a strength of this trio.
The music on this record is improvised. What we bring to each performance is who we are and all that we have learned so far. None of us is involved exclusively with improvisation. We each have experience playing composed music our own and other peoples’ – and we’re involved in a wide range of other musical activities. We write songs, use electronics, work in recording studios, collaborate with artists from other disciplines, compose scores, and much else besides. For us, improvising is the sum of our personal musical histories intertwined, a place where we can meet on equal terms and discover things we never knew, or hear what we thought we knew in a new light.
It’s a conversation, an exchange. There are no rules, other than to listen well and act accordingly.