Monday, March 14, 2011

Bill Frisell

I was surprised a couple of years ago to see that guitarist-composer Bill Frisell was performing at the Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth, just like Jethro Tull. It seemed an odd venue, Frisell being a familiar of avant-gardist John Zorn, who'd probably scare the bejeezus out of the descendents of the Fort Worth Symphony subscribers that walked out on Ornette's Skies of America when it was performed here in 1983. But he's also a very different kettle of fish than Zorn, or Ornette.

While I've never considered myself a Frisell fan per se, dude is all over my record/CD/MP3 collection: playing with gospel-blues fervor all over "Bordertown" on Julius Hemphill's big band album; backing singer Petra Haden on a 2005 collaborative album; "covering" Painted From Memory, Elvis Costello's teaming with Burt Bacharach, on 1999's The Sweetest Punch; rounding out a trio with heavy punk-funk hitters Ronald Shannon Jackson and Melvin Gibbs on Power Tools' 1987 Strange Meeting.

Frisell recorded for ECM back in the '80s, and seemed at first to be influenced by equal measures of John Abercrombie's ethereality, his early patron Pat Metheny's pastoralism, and John Scofield's abstracted blues grit. What he clearly wasn't: a tech-head shredding recycled bebop/fusion licks. Since then, he's emerged as his own guy, a composer and interpreter with a very inclusive take on the "Great American Songbook;" his 1993 masterpiece Have A Little Faith includes works by Copland and Ives alongside songs by Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Madonna, and John Hiatt.


Blogger Herb Levy said...

The only time Bill's ever played in FW was at the McDavid space. Booked by the same people as Bass Hall, but a little different, no?

4:48 AM  

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