Over the last four decades there may not be a jazz guitarist as influential, widely mimicked, and shape-shifting as Bill Frisell. His lustrous, aerated tone and patient lyric phrasing have been closely associated with a strain of Americana that didn’t actually exist before his arrival on the scene. His range has allowed him to thrive in contexts as disparate as playing on John Zorn’s Naked City, collaborating with Elvis Costello, and appearing in a profound jazz trio with drummer Paul Motian and saxophonist Joe Lovano.
Frisell is a product of Baltimore who spent his formative years growing up in Boulder, Colorado, where one of his first teachers was Johnny Smith of “Moonlight in Vermont” fame. After finishing his studies at the University of Northern Colorado, he moved to Boston to attend the Berklee Conservatory, where his teachers included Jim Hall and Joe Damian. He began recording for ECM Records in 1982 when Pat Metheny was unable to make a date with Motian, leading to a partnership that produced several acclaimed albums. His musical world was soon shaken up when he became part of John Zorn’s circle, adapting to the saxophonist’s jump-cut aesthetic as a member of his Naked City, as well as making some albums that radically toggled between noisy, rock-derived onslaughts and pastoral, twang-laden balladry.
His vast discography has charted his widening interests in country music, bossa nova, African traditions, and more in ever-changing contexts. As the New York Times has written, “Frisell has had a lot of practice putting high concept into a humble package. Long hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, he has also earned a reputation for teasing out thematic connections with his music… There’s a reason that Jazz at Lincoln Center had him program a series called Roots of Americana.”
More recently he signed with Blue Note Records, which has released a variety of recent band projects, including Harmony, a quartet featuring the smoky vocals of Petra Haden, and Valentine, a collection of love songs featuring his long-running trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston.
Bill Frisell Four
with Jonathan Blake, Gerald Clayton, & Gregory Tardy
Bill Frisell Trio with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
North American Premier
Charles Lloyd Chapel Trio
with Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan
John Zorn: Cobra
Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, Will Greene, Brian Marsella, John Medeski, Michael Nicolas, Trevor Dunn, Simon Hanes, Sae Hashimoto, Dave Lombardo, Aaron Edgcomb, & Kenny Wollesen
John Zorn: Gnostic Trio
Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, & Carol Emanuel
John Zorn: Nove Cantici per Francesco d’Assisi
Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, & Gyan Riley
Tyshawn Sorey Trio
with Joe Lovano & Bill Frisell