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Jazz - Released March 16, 2018 | Okeh

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
The guitar isn’t the most used instrument among jazzmen, and revolutionary guitarists are quite logically very seldom. Bill Frisell is lucky enough to be one of them. Year after year (with a career spanning four decades!) and album after album (over forty records under his name, and three hundred as a sideman!), the American has imposed his singular voice, one of the most influential of the last twenty years. Frisell quickly set himself apart from his elders by taking his – instantly recognisable – style onto every possible repertoire. Post bop, free, noise, rock, country, 50s music, he dove into an incredible amount of partitions while staying true to his language and his style − simply put: remaining himself. Yet Music IS isn’t just another album designed to build up his already dense discography. He who shares his music first and foremost, felt the need to express himself on a solo project, a context he’s never really been fond of, often admitting in interviews that he gave his first solo concert years after starting his professional career… But Music IS is the result of a need to play, on acoustic and electric guitar, his own music. After revisiting the music of others, Bill Frisell has decided in this 2018 opus to gather new as well as older themes, some he hadn’t played for years. Listening to these fifteen tracks in one go is like travelling in the colourful meanders of this exceptional musician’s brain. Whether he refines his phrases to the extreme like his master Jim Hall, launches in oversaturated hand-to-hand fights or performs Americana in his own impressionistic way, Bill Frisell delivers improvisations of eternal beauty. Even though this album may feel like a testament piece, Music IS is the work of an artist more alive than ever. And without a doubt one of his most beautiful albums. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released February 27, 2007 | Nonesuch

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released May 6, 2016 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released April 14, 1997 | Nonesuch

The vague country elements long dwelling on the fringes of Bill Frisell's music rise to the forefront on Nashville, an exquisitely atmospheric collection recorded in Music City with the aid of dobro legend Jerry Douglas, Union Station members Adam Steffey and Ron Block, and Lyle Lovett & His Large Band's bassist Viktor Krauss. Produced by Wayne Horvitz, the record is both genuine and alien -- while played with real affection for the country form and without any avant posturing, its sound is original and distinct, a cinematic variation on C&W tenets. While primarily instrumental and comprised largely of Frisell originals, Nashville does welcome vocalist Robin Holcomb for a pair of more traditional numbers -- Hazel Dickens' "Will Jesus Wash the Bloodstains from Your Hands" and the Skeeter Davis hit "The End of the World" -- as well as a cover of Neil Young's "One of These Days." ~ Jason Ankeny
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Jazz - Released February 5, 2016 | Okeh

Hi-Res
The role of music in classic film and television has always been considerable. With When You Wish Upon a Star, the ever-versatile guitarist Bill Frisell draws upon the sentimentality of music heard on screen and how it shapes and informs our emotional relationships to what we see. Frisell, whose own music has been featured in major motion pictures like Finding Forrester and The Million Dollar Hotel reflects: “Music is so rich with all the associations that go along with it, whether it’s the words or a memory you get when you hear it.” Violist Eyvind Kang, bassist Thomas Morgan, drummer Rudy Royston, and singer Petra Haden - who recently released her musical ode to classic film, Petra Goes To The Movies - will join Frisell in re-imagining time-honored gems like “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” as well as music from television favorites including The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Honeymooners. © jazz.org
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Jazz - Released April 1, 1983 | ECM

This is the closest Bill Frisell has come to an actual solo album, though he is joined on half of the set by bass player Arild Andersen. Frisell's electric and acoustic guitars are multi-tracked throughout. The title piece uses light dissonances to especially shimmering and vibratory effect. IN LINE was produced by Manfred Eicher, whose customary pristine clarity makes an ideal setting for Frisell's subtly nuanced playing. Each of the nine pieces is distinct, but they also lend themselves to an over-arching feeling of connectedness. There is a real album identity to this work. Though quiet and meditative as both a guitarist and a composer, Frisell's style is broad enough to allow for a range of emotional settings--from introspective to celebratory.
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Jazz - Released August 25, 2006 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released May 14, 1999 | Nonesuch

No doubt pleased with his countrified direction on Gone, Just Like a Train, Bill Frisell gives us a lot more of basically the same thing here -- only with expanded numbers in the ranks. Bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Jim Keltner return, now accompanied by Wayne Horvitz's understated organ and piano; Greg Leisz on an assortment of fretted instruments, including the Dobro, pedal steel guitar and mandolin; and on "Shenandoah," Ry Cooder's atmospheric guitars. The first tracks of Good Dog, Happy Man pick up right where Gone, Just Like a Train left off -- low-key, perhaps too low-key -- but tracks like "Big Shoe" and "Cadillac 1959" add a bit of swagger to the lope and "Poem for Eva" sports the best tune. Again, Frisell often captures a loose, evolutionary jamming quality in these sessions, playing the country accents off of his jazz sensibilities. Unlike its predecessor, though, you can't imagine this being recorded on a backwoods front porch, for there are some production tricks and distant-sounding electronic loops that give away its Burbank studio origins. Purists on either side of the jazz/country divide are hereby warned to back off so that the rest of us can enjoy this. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released July 17, 2009 | Nonesuch

Booklet
Disfarmer was an outsider artist who became famous for his Depression-era photographs of families, farmers, and individuals around his hometown of Heber Springs, AR. This is set by Bill Frisell is the score commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts to accompany a retrospective of the artist's work. Frisell and producer Lee Townsend assembled the guitarist's "country" band for the occasion: violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Viktor Krauss, and steel guitarist and mandolinist Greg Leisz. There are 26 cues in this score. Most of them are very sparse, skeletally melodic variations on old-timey parlor music, country blues, and country music, with a few, such as "That's All Right, Mama," done as fusions of hillbilly boogie and square dance music. There's a version of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" that's a showcase for the atmospheric power of Leisz's steel guitar, which adds to the melodic shades of the tune. Most of this, however, falls into moody, extremely minimal music that is haunting in nature -- much like the figure of Disfarmer himself, who scared many of the residents of Heber Springs with his strange and imposing presence. That said, if only Frisell's music were a bit more imposing. This approach of his is so familiar by now that the listener knows exactly what to expect from cue to cue. Tempos vary little, from slow to almost static, and the lyric palette is extremely narrow. In their restraint, the players are all excellent, but nobody here, not even Frisell, shines. Still, it is a pleasant recording to listen to if not hang on to. It floats and hovers about the room as a peaceful backdrop. Disfarmer is to be taken as a soundtrack rather than as a Frisell album proper, and listened to as a series of sketches rather than as a fully assembled statement from the artist. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released November 1, 2005 | Nonesuch - WBR

The allusion of the title East/West is an apt one; this live double-CD set is a study in contrasts. Recorded just six months apart with two different trios, Bill Frisell really shows both sides of his musical personality. The "East" disc was recorded in December of 2003 at the Village Vanguard with Frisell on guitar (acoustic and electric) and loops, Tony Sherr on acoustic bass and a bit of acoustic guitar, and Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion. The program here consists largely of well-known standards with a couple brief improvisations and a single Frisell composition. The "West" disc was recorded at Yoshi's in May of 2004 and features Frisell (guitars, loops), Viktor Krauss (acoustic bass), and, well, Kenny Wollesen on drums (no other percussion), but this time the program is half Frisell compositions, a couple pop songs, and the traditional "Shenandoah." On the "East" disc, only three of the ten tunes are longer than five minutes, but on the "West" disc only one track is shorter than eight minutes! The preponderance of standards on the "East" disc keeps the players mostly on the inside tip, even eliciting laughter from some audience members when Frisell hits the intro to the old warhorse "People" (to which he replies, "you think I'm joking or what?"). They do loosen up a bit at the end, for a wonderful arrangement of Willie Nelson's "Crazy" with two acoustic guitars and looping aural detritus, and there's a fun gallop through "Tennessee Flat Top Box." The group improvisations also add a bit of spark. Folks who discovered Frisell in the late '90s with albums like Nashville are going to love this set. Then there are the folks who discovered Frisell in the '80s as a major player in the downtown new music scene along with folks like John Zorn and Wayne Horvitz (fellow bandmates in the groundbreaking and genre-smashing Naked City band). For them, Frisell seemed to be losing his edge a bit as his trademark skronk was traded for acoustic textures. Richter 858 and the Grammy-winning (!) Unspeakable saw him revisiting that earlier sound to some degree, mainly through more extensive use of delays and loops, but the "West" disc here shows he's really back. "Heard It Through the Grapevine" starts out a bit slow, but right from the outset the delay plays a large role, ping-ponging ugly harmonics back and forth as an intro before hitting the first verse. It gradually picks up momentum, until the delays return and Frisell adopts a roaring backward-sounding tone for the end. "Blues for Los Angeles" has even more great looping, some pretty menacing sounds, and some fantastic soloing. "Pipe Down" (originally on Nashville) gets a much slower deconstructed treatment, then kicks into high gear with a serious groove. This set is way more adventurous than the "East" one, and might surprise some old fans who haven't been paying close attention of late. Frisell retreats a bit from the edge for the last track, a nice reading of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" where the delay plays little to no role. With both bands, the rhythm section offers great support, but interestingly, Tony Scherr gets a bit of solo space while Viktor Krauss gets none. Then there's the fact that the album is called East/West, but the "West" disc (the later of the dates) is programmed as the first disc, so you listen to the sets in reverse chronological order as well as the opposite of what the title implies (perhaps "West/East" would have been more appropriate). And while this set is indeed a study in contrast, the common thread is the absolute guitar mastery and singular style and tone of Frisell. His use of double stops, open string voicings, and chordal leads in his playing, not to mention that slippery tone, makes him one of the most recognizable voices in music no matter what the context. And it's clear that Frisell is at home in any context, from playing chestnuts like "The Days of Wine and Roses" to John Zorn speed metal. The fairly naked trio context of East/West really gives the listener a chance to appreciate exactly what he can do, no matter which musical direction they're coming from. ~ Sean Westergaard
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Jazz - Released March 15, 2008 | Nonesuch

Booklet
History, Mystery is among Bill Frisell's most eclectic yet accessible projects. Produced by longtime ally Lee Townsend, this double-disc, 90-minute, 30-piece suite encompasses the full range of Frisell's musical past and his influences, obsessions, and storylike vision. It is performed by a star-studded octet that includes trumpeter Ron Miles, saxophonist Greg Tardy, and a string section featuring Eyvind Kang, Jenny Scheinman, and Hank Roberts, with bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen in the rhythm section. History, Mystery dances across entire musical landscapes: bebop/post-bop, Malian folk music, tangos, Delta blues, modern classical music, vintage soul, and rock. The source material for this recording was compiled from a multimedia collaboration with artist Jim Woodring called Mysterio Sympatico in 2002 and recorded during a tour. The rest was recorded for Stories from the Heart of the Land, a 2007 series on National Public Radio. Frisell composed most of this work, but his own "history" is revealed in his choice of covers: Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," "Jackie-Ing" by Thelonious Monk, "Sub-Conscious Lee" by Lennie Tristano, and "Baba Drame" by Malian guitar legend Boubacar Traoré. The sense of "mystery" is in just how these various sources are melded in a multi-textured tapestry of sound. Balance for this work is achieved in the strength of its arrangements, and the glue that binds them together is the string section. Its role is pivotal: it anchors the listener through its many stylistic and textural changes. The notion of "history" here is also revealed in the way songs are juxtaposed. For instance, a soul tune like "A Change Is Gonna Come" actually precedes a knotty yet swinging bop number like "Jackie-Ing." Non-American sources are cited, too. The nuevo tango-inspired "Probability Cloud" is the theme that bookends disc one. It begins as a digital guitar soundscape before an Astor Piazzolla-inspired tango comes to the fore in the strings. Traoré's droning desert blues "Baba Drame features an interlude that evokes late-19th century Spanish folk music, itself inspired by the chants and sung prayers of the Moors centuries before. Disc two engages themes, departures, and returns in numerous ways: the haunting, near-ambient "Monroe," with guitar and viola in the forefront; the spectral "Lazy Robinson" that floats between carnival music and modern classical composition with a rock backbeat (in waltz tempo); and the two-part "Answer," a strange, nightmarish, and disorienting sketch where the strings play an actual counterforce to Frisell's guitar. The music here is very adventurous and exploratory yet completely accessible. "Faces," with its traces of Gil Evans and Igor Stravinsky, contrasts wonderfully with the tough bebop in "Sub-Conscious Lee (itself furthered by Scheinman's violin referencing Stéphane Grapelli's Gypsy swing). "Waltz for Baltimore" places the grittiness of Tardy's guttural rhythm & blues honk against Frisell's elegant, modernist jazz chords; they are both made slightly surreal by Scheinman's violin, playing a minimal loop that bridges and yet displaces eras in ether. History, Mystery is an ambitious work; it's full of elliptical, riveting moments, shape-shifting colors, and multivalent textures. Frisell's inherent love of formal lyricism, expansive harmonics, and divergent musical histories reflects his tireless passion for tracing sources. In composing his own material, he also interprets and arranges his sources. On History, Mystery he achieves musical alchemy; he creates something new from familiar, exotic, and even forgotten forms, providing listeners with a magical aural experience. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released October 27, 2008 | Nonesuch

Booklet
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Jazz - Released August 24, 2004 | Nonesuch

With the exception of 2003's Intercontinentals, Bill Frisell had been playing it pretty safe for some time, sticking to his own personal vision of variations on the Americana theme (with nearly all of those albums being produced by Lee Townsend, by the way). Well, a change of producers often means a change of pace, and teaming up with eclectic producer Hal Willner for Unspeakable seems to have gotten the creative juices flowing again. Their working relationship goes back a long ways, all the way back to the Amarcord Nino Rota tribute from the early '80s. The use of a string section on more than three-fourths of the tunes already adds a different flavor to this album, but the fact that Frisell and Willner seem to have taken inspiration from the sounds of classic soul music is what really sets this apart from others in the Frisell catalog. Not only that, but Frisell's delays return in a more prominent role and he offers up some of his fiercest playing in years. There are a handful of introspective pieces that feature just the strings and guitar, with some slight sonic embellishments from Willner. The majority of the tunes, however, sound something like Bill Frisell scoring the music to Superfly! The soul grooves are tough to miss, but with this cast of players, it comes off like some cinematic offshoot of soul music. The grooves are fantastic, and Frisell really rises to the occasion, bringing back the delays, nasty distorted tone, and ugly harmonics that have been largely absent from his more recent releases. There are still lots of lovely sounds, but it's great to hear him stretching out a bit more again. Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen have not only served as Frisell's rhythm section in the past, but they also play together in Sex Mob. Sometimes aided by Don Alias, they really drive the tunes, with the strings and occasional horns punctuating the melody and Frisell's guitars floating all over the place. Willner's use of turntables and samplers adds some great sounds to the mix, sometimes adding an almost exotica flavor. It's all quite accessible, but fans with delicate ears may be put off by some of the noisier moments on the album, like the keyboard (?) sound on "Stringbean" or the guitar solo on "Old Sugar Bear." Other fans will be delighted to hear such a glorious din on a Bill Frisell record again. After so much of a similar thing, it's just great to hear Frisell being pushed in a new direction (and quite a fun one, at that). Recommended. ~ Sean Westergaard
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Jazz - Released April 29, 1985 | ECM

This relatively early set from Bill Frisell is a fine showcase for the utterly unique guitarist. Frisell has the ability to play nearly any extroverted style of music and his humor (check out the date's "Music I Heard") is rarely far below the surface. This particular quintet (with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, tuba player Bob Stewart, electric bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Paul Motian) is not exactly short of original personalities and their outing (featuring seven Frisell compositions) is one of the most lively of all the ones in the ECM catalog. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released February 18, 2003 | Nonesuch - WBR

Bill Frisell has been actively -- some would say obsessively -- exploring the depths and dimensions of American roots music since the release of Nashville in 1997. His subsequent recordings -- Ghost Town, Gone Just Like a Train, Blues Dream, Good Dog, Happy Man, and The Willies -- were all approaches to the various folk styles that originated on American soil: country, blues, bluegrass, field hollers, jazz, and others. He has successfully been able to blend, extract, adapt, and otherwise morph one set of music onto another through his own approach to guitar playing -- the song. More than any other contemporary guitarist, Frisell is driven by the notion of song -- what it entails, both in terms of musical and cultural expression, and what it implies. On The Intercontinentals, Frisell continues his investigation of American music, but as a way of understanding how it entwines with the folk musics of other nations. Onboard for this outing are Frisell's longtime collaborators Jenny Scheinman; pedal, dobro, and lap steel guitarist Greg Leisz; as well as Brazilian mega-guitarist and songwriter Vinicius Cantuaria; Macedonian vocalist and oud player Christos Govetas and Malian percussionist and vocalist Sidikki Camara. Frisell had played with Camara and Malian uber-guitarist Boubacar Traore a couple of years before and was intrigued enough to explore the connection further. The result of this unlikely union is one of the most seamlessly beautiful works Frisell has ever produced. On it, he and Cantuaria delve into the modern Malian guitar and percussion sound pioneered by Ali Farka Toure; blend it with the timeless emotional resonance of Greek folk songs via Govetas' oud and infectious Brazilian lyricism; and filter it through shimmering country landscapes and otherworldly string textures that reinvent harmonic properties to suit the lyric of the blues, song, indigenous folk musics, and the contemporary improvisational ideal. Frisell composed the lion's share of the tunes here, but there are also contributions by Gilberto Gil, Traore, Govetas, and Cantuaria. Scheinman's violin acts as a gorgeous signpost for virtually all of these musicians to return to; her melodic sensibility and crisp tone are beacons in the often swirling, escalating, and/or cascading whorls of plucked strings, playing as many as four melodies simultaneously with winding, almost knotty scalar interchanges. What is most fascinating is that even in the vocal tunes, or those where the Malian blues effect is the prominent force, everything else in the mix fans out and creates often contrapuntal backdrops for elegant and lush, if dense, textures. Simply put, this is the busiest record Frisell has made in years, but it doesn't feel like it. His sense of "song" is so pervasive, everything here is arranged to fit its "singing." His own tone is unmistakable, as is Leisz's and Cantuaria's. The guitars are as distinct as the oud and the violin, all of them carried into the next space by hand drums. While each song does stand on its own as a harmonic and lyrical entity, with adventurous improvisation added in the spirit of true exploration, as an album they are linked by the weave of aural tapestry, dynamics, and spaciousness that is so central to Frisell's sound. And while this is more collaborative than perhaps anything he's done in a decade, it nonetheless bears his sonic and esthetic imprint. This is a remarkable album; its sets a new watermark for Frisell's sense of adventure and taste, and displays his perception of beauty in a pronounced, uncompromising, yet wholly accessible way. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released May 6, 2016 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released April 29, 2002 | Deutsche Grammophon ECM

Booklet

Jazz - Released February 9, 2018 | Okeh

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Jazz - Released August 9, 2005 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released May 6, 2016 | Nonesuch

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