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Jazz - Released April 12, 2019 | ECM

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
Guitar and bass duos are a rewarding subgenre of jazz—pairings like Jim Hall/Ron Carter or Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock come to mind—that’s recently been dominated by the extrasensory connection between the perennially underrated Thomas Morgan and the do-it-all guitarist Bill Frisell. Despite a title derived from the Thelonious Monk-penned standard that’s covered here, jazz is not an accurate description of Morgan and Frisell's increasingly intrepid shared vision. The closest label would be a highly idiosyncratic version of Americana. There's a sinuous take on the iconic "Red River Valley" and a straighter reading of Monk but also dashes of Billy Strayhorn ("Lush Life") and Frank Sinatra ("In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning"), resulting in a mysterious, all-encompassing flavor. As proof of their wide-ranging tastes and ability to make any music their own, a fearless, unlikely mashup of "Wildwood Flower" (made famous by the Carter Family) and the Doc Pomus classic "Save The Last Dance for Me," somehow brings out the essence of both tunes. While Frisell’s signature meandering, idea-heavy, reverbed style provides the bones throughout the nine tracks, it’s Morgan who fills out the flesh. Recorded live in the basement of New York City's iconic Village Vanguard, Epistrophy highlights the close-miked richness of both Frisell's resonant guitar tones and Morgan's soft-edged bass contours. Except for the inevitable coughs that occur during the performances and modest applause between tunes, crowd noise here is largely absent, leaving the guitar and bass to naturally entwine in a wonderfully perceptive and creative dance. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Jazz - Released March 16, 2018 | Okeh - Sony Masterworks

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 19, 1993 | Nonesuch

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Bill Frisell has long been one of the most unique guitarists around. Able to switch on a moment's notice from sounding like a Nashville studio player to heavy metal, several styles of jazz, and just pure noise, Frisell can get a remarkable variety of sounds and tones out of his instrument. This set features Frisell in a quintet with Don Byron (on clarinet and bass clarinet), Guy Klucevsek on accordion, bassist Kermit Driscoll, and drummer Joey Baron. To call the repertoire wide-ranging would be an understatement. In addition to eight melodies from Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid, Frisell and company explore (and often reinvent) pieces written by Charles Ives, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Madonna, Sonny Rollins, Stephen Foster, and John Phillip Sousa. This is one of the most inventive recordings of the 1990s and should delight most listeners from any genre. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 4, 2019 | Blue Note Records

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The label Blue Note has welcomed so many pioneering, brilliant and revolutionary musicians over the years, so Bill Frisell’s arrival to the company that was founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis hardly comes as a surprise. At 68 years old, the American is not only the most captivating guitarist of his generation but undoubtedly one of the most innovative and influential. In fact, over the past few years Frisell has been breaking down the stylistic boundaries that have confined him to the “jazz” section. His repertoire now combines traditional jazz and folk and he allows himself to venture into country and even rock. This first Blue Note album is a perfect reflection of Frisell’s indefinable style as he lets himself go wherever he desires. With his old friend and cellist Hank Roberts (his fellow student at Berklee College of Music in 1975), singer Petra Haden (Charlie Haden’s daughter with whom he has been collaborating since the early 2000s), and guitarist, bassist and singer Luke Bergman, Bill Frisell has revealed this Harmony as a unique combination of chamber music folk jazz and vocal harmonies. An atypical and intimate reading of classical American music symbolized by the presence of the traditional song Red River Valley and Billy Strayhorn’s standard Lush Life. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released May 26, 2017 | ECM

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For the first time since his album Lookout For Hope released in 1988, Bill Frisell has appeared as the lead act on a record with ECM, the label with which he recorded In Line in 1983, his first disc, a duet with the Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen. Co-lead act, to be more precise, as the American guitarist once again plays a few duets with a double-bassist: Thomas Morgan, 30 years his junior, who played on his recent When You Wish Upon A Star. This Small Town, recorded in public on stage at Village Vanguard in New York, in March 2016, brings together pieces by Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Fats Domino or even John Barry, with the theme from the film Goldfinger. An eclectic repertoire on which Frisell totally makes his colourful and impressionist mark. Master of space and silence, he lets plays his notes parsimoniously, and really integrates his collaborator's inspired bassline into his music. A music of utter beauty. © MZ/Qobuz
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 9, 2005 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 16, 2001 | Nonesuch

From the beginning of Blues Dream, the listener knows that something special is going on. The spare notes of Ron Miles' trumpet and the relaxed guitar work of Greg Leisz lay the groundwork for a spacious sound on the title cut. This openness remains throughout the album, even when alto and trombone are added into the mix. The instrumental "Ron Carter" begins with the loose, electrified feel of an early Miles Davis fusion piece, with Bill Frisell's distorted guitar exploring the space of the piece without resorting to excessive volume. The short and sweet "Pretty Stars Were Made to Shine" leans heavier on the country side, with steel guitar and Chet Atkins' fingerpicking dominating. The arrangements on Blues Dream are a big change from last year's solo effort, Ghost Town. An essential part of the overall sound is Leisz' steel guitar and lap steel work. He also played with Frisell on Good Dog, Happy Man, and helps to set the mood and pace throughout Blues Dream. Ron Miles plays a smaller role, but it is fascinating how well his relaxed trumpet, with its carefully chosen notes, fits into the mix on the title cut and the short "Episode." Blues Dream is a perfectly chosen title: the material, steeped in the blues, is approached in a lazy, dreamlike fashion. Frisell's fondness for putting unusual combinations of instruments together adds to the overall effect, leaving the listener to wonder why no one has ever tried this before. Blues Dream is a lovely release that should satisfy Frisell fans as well as jazz, country, and blues fans looking for a genre-bending experience. © Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 29, 2016 | Okeh

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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 October 27, 2008 | Nonesuch

Booklet
That Bill Frisell should get the "best-of" treatment from his longtime label Nonesuch seems overdue, even strangely so. Frisell began recording for Elektra Musician in 1986 after leaving ECM Records, where he'd recorded a steady string of generally excellent but somewhat low profile albums. Elektra owned Nonesuch Records as well. When Musician ceased to function as a label, Frisell's contract was morphed into the Elektra Nonesuch imprint, and eventually once more into Nonesuch, then Elektra Asylum, then back to Nonesuch. In other words, Frisell has been working with the WEA family for over two decades. In that time he has released no less than 20 albums for the various labels under WEA's corporate umbrella. Which brings us to this 15-cut issue, a first volume in series of retrospective recordings subtitled "Folk Songs." Equally at home in the avant-garde or playing bop, Frisell's chops as a jazz guitarist are well documented, and since he began his work with Nonesuch in particular, his penchant for playing classic American songs from the country, folk, and blues idioms has been heard voluminously as well. This selection has been assembled from albums released between 1989's Is That You? and 1992's Have a Little Faith (an album comprised exclusively of covers) through to 2002's The Willies, with some recordings completely left undocumented here. (We can presume they will be represented in other volumes.) What is here is a set of originals and covers that actively reflect Frisell's deep fascination with American folksong regardless of initial genre -- in his universe it all comes out sounding like him anyway. Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is juxtaposed with the scampy original "Raccoon Cat," which precedes the traditional "Sugar Baby." The relaxed newgrass country of "We're Not from Around Here," with Jerry Douglas on dobro and Victor Krauss on bass, precedes the original "The Pioneers" recorded with banjoist Danny Barnes, formerly of punk bluegrass outfit the Bad Livers and bassist Keith Lowe. The Frisell composition "Ballroom" is sandwiched between a gorgeous reading of the traditional "Shenandoah" and a reverential yet mournful version of John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me." The music, whether blues or country or identifiable as "folk," is all of a piece, both Frisell and producer Lee Townsend seem to be saying, this is part of what the guitarist does and it's a big and valuable part that draws both inspiration from the soil as well as from the root sources these tunes are either composed from or come from on their own. This is basically the softer and more controversial side of Frisell -- though there are some surprises -- and the one that has registered most popular with listeners who buy CDs. There are three tracks here from the very laid-back and melodic Good Dog, Happy Man, and a pair from Nashville, two of his most successful recordings. But this is a beautiful taste as well as a new way to listen to the way Frisell's own music meets that of the masters, and he acquits himself well. This is a terrific sampler even if it only presents a sliver of the artist's range. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 18, 2003 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

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 /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 6, 1998 | Nonesuch

Drawing from all over the musical spectrum, Frisell selects drummer Jim Keltner (best known for his records with George Harrison, Eric Clapton and other rock stars) and bassist Viktor Krauss (a fixture in Lyle Lovett's country band), and comes up with an immensely likable, easy-grooving CD that defies one to put a label on it. If anything, Frisell leans toward a drawling country twang heavily indebted to Chet Atkins in his guitar work here, but there is a freewheeling jazz sensibility at work on every track. Keltner contributes the heavy rock element with his emphatic strokes, occasionally pushing Frisell in that direction on the title track and the lengthy "Lookout for Hope." Yet Keltner is also capable of surprising subtlety, and Krauss provides firm, unflashy underpinning. Above all, this is thoughtful, free-thinking, ear-friendly jamming that was recorded in bustling Burbank, CA. but sounds as if it was laid down in a relaxed cabin in the hills. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 25, 2000 | Nonesuch

While Bill Frisell has released plenty of albums under his own name, this is his first true solo album -- the first on which he plays all of the instruments himself. These include electric and acoustic guitar, six-string banjo, and bass, as well as the occasional looped sample. To call the music he creates on this album "introspective" would be something of an understatement. This won't come as a complete surprise to his fans -- there has always been a gentle and meditative quality to his music, and even when he's gotten wild with his trio or with downtown pals like John Zorn or Vernon Reid, those moments of abrasive abandon have always seemed like detours from his more natural, but no less inventive and interesting, sweetness and good humor. But there's a darkness around the edges this time out that is unusual, as if he's lonely playing by himself and a little bit unnerved at the thoughts and feelings he's being forced to face on his own. His rendition of the A.P. Carter classic "Wildwood Flower" starts out with an extended Delta-blues introduction, which is a pretty unusual choice. There are other cover versions, including Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now," both of which deeply explore the emotional wreckage described by the songs' lyrics; his own compositions, such as the vaguely surfy "Variation on a Theme" and the slightly ominous "Big Bob," seem to be cut out of similar cloth. There are moments of light relief, such as the gently lovely title track and the brief banjo interlude "Fingers Snappin' and Toes Tappin'," but the overall mood here is relatively dark, though consistently beautiful. © Rick Anderson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 3, 2014 | Okeh

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Jazz - Released October 4, 2019 | Blue Note Records

Atmospheric isn't just an adjective for Bill Frisell, it's a concise description of the aesthetic he's followed through much of his career. While he's a masterful player in various contexts, Frisell's magic is how much he can create with so little; he's capable of creating tremendously evocative soundscapes with just an electric guitar, some reverb, and the occasional use of a looping pedal. While jazz is a fitting category for his work, if anyone in contemporary music has a style that transcends genre, it would be Frisell. 2019's HARMONY is not just the title of a Bill Frisell album but his name for the ensemble that created it -- Frisell and Luke Bergman on guitars, Hank Roberts on cello, and Petra Haden on vocals. On HARMONY, Frisell and his partners play a handful of Frisell originals (his lyricists include Elvis Costello and Julie Miller) alongside an assortment of classic American songs, a variety that encompasses the venerable show tune "On the Street Where You Live," Billy Strayhorn's jazz standard "Lush Life," and the classic cowboy song "Red River Valley." The mysterious frameworks of Frisell's guitar work are at the center of the performances, but Bergman and Roberts complement his performances with subtle grace and a sure hand, and Haden's vocals are lovely, whether she's exploring the nuances of a classic lyric or wordlessly adding her own textures to the melody. (Bergman and Roberts also contribute harmony vocals, and they interact with Haden with the same kind of care and imagination that they display with Frisell's instrumental work.) HARMONY sometimes feels so ethereal that it could blow away in a strong breeze, but there's a strength in the quiet of these sessions, and the best moments are nothing short of magic. If you're looking for music that will suit a quiet night with intelligence and style, you should certainly give HARMONY a listen. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 25, 2006 | Nonesuch

It's hard to imagine that Bill Frisell at 55 is the youngster of this group. But he is by a long shot. Not that it matters in terms of musicality; rather, it's that younger modernism and its involvement with different musical genres that make Frisell such a welcome foil for the likes of two heavyweights like Paul Motian and Ron Carter. To say that this album is all over the place is an understatement. Just look at the tunes: from the slippery little grooving blues of "Eighty-One" by Carter and his former boss Miles Davis to the ditty "You Are My Sunshine" by Jimmie Davis, Thelonious Monk's "Raise Four" and "Misterioso," and traditional tunes like "Pretty Polly" and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." These are just a few, but what they prove is everything. These three musicians sound so comfortable, it's like they've been playing together for years. There is great humor in the approach on some of these tunes, such as Carter taking a boogie break near the end of "Eighty-One," or the tight little counterpoint between Motian and Frisell on "Raise Four." The question as to whether the record swings or not is moot -- it does but in a very different and gentle manner. Those who have decried Frisell's move toward country music in the last decade or so needn't be worried; no matter how songs are played (and they are played as songs), this is fully a jazz date with plenty of improvisation and strange asides. Motian's musicality is one more element of the great edge this band has. He's always pushing, however gently, always singing on his kit. The rapport between Motian and Carter is wonderful on Lerner & Loewe's "On the Street Where You Live," and he and Frisell are nearly symbiotic -- check Frisell's "Monroe," or the Williams tune, or better yet the angles and corners on "Misterioso," where they paint themselves into such a tight corner it seems they'll never get out. With Carter's solid time, they weave a tapestry that's as rich and humorous as Monk's, and he's snapping his fingers wherever he is now. This is a solid and unexpected surprise from a brilliantly conceived collaboration. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 9, 2005 | Nonesuch

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 /TiVo

Artist

Bill Frisell in the magazine