The Sweet Sound of Slapstick

Films of Buster Keaton, Music by Bill Frisell (Songline/Tone Field; on DVD)

| September-October, 2009

Mixing pratfalls with pathos, Buster Keaton knew that comedy and tragedy were just a shade apart. Scoring three of Keaton’s comic films from the 1920s, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell coaxes a whole lot of bittersweet from his guitar. He doesn’t play directly to the action like a sound-effects man but instead colors these black-and-white classics with shifting moods and muted tones that strangely complement Buster’s lovable-loser gags.