What makes Hemispheres such a successful collaboration is not that Jim Hall and Bill Frisell meet in the middle but that they start there and extend outward.
On the surface it would seem the two guitarists should have little to say to each other. Frisell is an inveterate experimenter, fond of manipulations that often disguise the guitar until it sounds like anything but. There's quite a bit of that here, but often it's the older, more traditional Hall who's creating the most extreme noises. Frisell, meanwhile, proves he's able to rein in and play it straight. Hemispheres comprises two discs: one is all duets, the other adds bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron.
Recorded in close quarters, the material ranges from a pin-drop-soft cover of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and a frisky take on Milt Jackson's "Bags' Groove" to the arch, 15-plus-minute "Migration," an improvised free piece that's maybe five minutes too long, and a grooving "Masters of War" that doesn't so much deconstruct the Dylan tune as give it a fresh, less angry coat of paint. Recorded live sans overdubs, Hemispheres is about intuitiveness, open-mindedness, and unpredictability — in other words, what jazz should be.