Bill Frisell Four
with Johnathan Blake, Gerald Clayton & Gregory Tardy
One of the many things that has made Bill Frisell one of the greatest musicians of his generation is the way he’s perpetually formed new ensembles from an ever-expanding pool of collaborators. His indelible themes have long benefitted from fresh interpretations, as new contexts cast his tunes in a new light. While the guitarist’s much anticipated collaboration with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at Big Ears promises to reframe some of his most beloved material in a format we’ve never heard before, he’s also presenting a fantastic new quartet which will drop its eponymous debut album for Blue Note in November of 2022.
The band features reedist Gregory Tardy, drummer Johnathan Blake, and pianist Gerald Clayton, all seasoned improvisers with deep roots in post-bop. The decision to forgo bass in the group provides extra space for the stunning webs of harmony the musicians knit together. That absent low end allows the musicians to push the music forward with a leisurely patience built from close listening. The music definitely swings, but these new works—including the tender “Waltz for Hal Wilner,” the guitarist’s homage to late producer and Saturday Night Live musical director—place the rest of his band in a different context than usual, shaping airy forms that expertly contain the leader’s aerated lyricism.