Mar 1, 2018
You don’t pass up and opportunity to speak with Bill Frisell. The legendary guitar player has been among the most talented and versatile musicians of the past twenty years, performing in almost any jazz idiom, his trademark telecaster creating a sound that is uniquely his. Most of Frisell’s recorded output for the past few years has been composed of albums written by others (All We Are Saying, Guitar in the Space Age!) or larger scope pieces like the string-laden Big Sur or The Mockingbird with the Gnostic Trio. His last release, Small Town, a moving series of duets with bassist Thomas Morgan recorded live at the Village Vanguard for ECM, may have been a hint that even more intimate work was forthcoming.
Music Is (OKeh/Sony) is the first solo album for Frisell in almost twenty years, and gives us a chance to hear his re-imagining of memorable early compositions like “Pretty Stars” and “Rambler” is a stripped down setting. Whether it’s just Frisell on his telecaster or an acoustic guitar, or whether he adds the pedals, delays and loops that were his early calling card, the result is an album of startling beautiful music.
I say “startling” since the wonderful clarity of sound allows the silence to be as important a sound as any loop effect. Frisell approaches the tunes with an honest simplicity, that “sit and pick on the front porch” feel that belies his harmonic complexity. His newer tunes – most notably “Go Happy Lucky” – are standouts, as is the new take on “Ron Carter.”
In our conversation, Frisell revealed that the choice of tunes and setting was not so much a mid-life crisis or intentional re-examination of his catalogue as it was the result of a series of nights played at the soon to be closed The Stone in the East Village of New York. Intent on allowing himself to take chances and play music he had put aside or ignored for years lead him to book
Time in old friend Tucker Martine’s Flora Recording and Playback studio in Portland, Oregon, and brought favorite collaborator Lee Townsend in to produce.
Podcast 613 is our conversation, showing Bill Frisell to be a modest and unassuming musician, even after all his years of success. Musical selections include "Rambler', "Go Happy Lucky" and "Pretty Stars."