I mention to Bill Frisell in our following conversation about his music, the
harder I dig, the deeper it gets. The tone painter has already covered so much
ground that you'd need to write a book to adequately annotate his journeys to
Perhaps like some readers, I'd heard lots about Bill Frisell for over a decade, but hadn't actually heard his music. I knew what he looked like, knew he played one of those ergonomic Klein electric guitars, and that he must play some kind of jazz. Next to nothing, really.
During the Kelly Joe Phelps interview, we had some very pleasant dealings with a West Coast production/mgt. company called Songline/Tone Field Productions. Lee Townsend is both producer and manager for Kelly Joe, Bill Frisell, and drummer Joey Baron, and has produced a long impressive list of quality artists, of several genres. Unusually enough, it was our contact with Lee and Phyllis Oyama at Songline/Tone Field that inspired me to finally investigate the recordings of Bill Frisell.
I wasn't prepared for how much I was going to love his music. I'm more of a song man than an instrumental person, though not exclusively. I love lots of jazz, but don't listen to it that much in recent years. I like lots of world music, but don't give it much time. (I mention all this not because I think my story is so interesting, but in case it may resonate with some of your audio habits. I don't want other "song" people to miss out on any of the fun I've been having checking out Bill Frisell.)
I felt daunted by the task of covering Bill's music, since I soon found he'd played on a hundred records, and cut sixteen or more under his own name. On top of that, many of those CDs under his name were in the jazz bin but were actually different styles of music completely!
So here's what I did. I picked up four of his recent records that appealed to me. I'd heard a lot about his life-changing and award-winning CD called Nashville, and one that featured a more old time music approach (and this struck me as an unprecedented, outrageous move for a jazz musician) called The Willies, so I got both of those. (I would have bought The Willies regardless of style, as soon as I saw the cartoon characters on the outside, which turned out to be his drawings.) I coupled these with one called Blues Dream, for musical balance, and the newest release was sent to me, a multi-cultural experiment called The Intercontinentals. And it turned out to be an incredible ride, so much fun, so much to absorb and enjoy. It's the best musical journey I've taken in a long time, and I'm still just beginning.
Each one of these records is truly great, a musicosm. For the purposes of setting the stage for our conversation, I'll try to restrict my comments to the soul satisfying and mind expanding new record. But we'll have clips from several records, so be sure to check them all out on the Listen page.
As the name The Intercontinentals implies, the cast of characters comes from many countries. The unbelievable Brazilian singer songwriter Vinicius Cantuaria played guitar and sang, but also played drums and percussion. The other gifted hand drummer and percussionist is from Mali, Sidiki Camara. There was little or no bass on the entire record--that's amazing, because there was plenty of bottom end and a deep groove throughout, to understate the case. Greek-Macedonian Christos Govetas sang and played oud and bouzouki. (Please remember that when we say they sang or played, we do so in the spirit of grand understatement.) Greg Leisz played slide and pedal steel guitars, whoa. And Jenny Scheinman, a favorite foil of Frisell and Lee Townsend, played violin. The superb individual work of all these musicians bears much closer inspection, and is something we intend.
Naturally, it is the unique web and world of Bill Frisell that pulls the versicolored elements together. Sparse and ubiquitous. his use of loops and delay bring such a welcome dreaminess to the music, and sonically pull it out of the mundane world and into the realm of feeling and spirit. His playing, the anti-technique and melody driven approach, is deeply affecting, it moves me. The compositions and the chemistry of the players, they're astounding. And Bill goes into that in our conversation, that it's about the relationships that occur and exist and breathe between the players, and the producer.
We're crazy about this record, and are already on the trail to getting every Bill Frisell CD we can lay our hands on. We know you'll enjoy the conversation with this unique and crucial musician and composer, we certainly thought it was a blast. We encourage you to go to his website, and read about how enamored all corners of journalism are with his contribution to modern music. continue to interview