Four Bill Frisell
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- 1Dear Old Friend (for Alan Woodard)02:25
- 2Claude Utley05:15
- 3The Pioneers05:43
- 5Waltz for Hal Willner02:48
- 6Lookout for Hope05:10
- 8Wise Woman03:46
- 9Blues from Before03:49
- 11Good Dog, Happy Man03:03
- 13Dog on a Roof06:42
Info for Four
Bill Frisell follows-up his acclaimed 2020 trio album Valentine with the November 11 release of Four, a stunning 13-track meditation on loss, renewal, and friendships. The guitarist and composer’s 3rd album for Blue Note Records since signing with the label in 2019 proffers new interpretations of previously recorded Frisell originals as well as nine new tunes. Produced by Lee Townsend, the session brings together a new line-up of musical friends, independent spirits, and like minds: Blue Note stablemates Gerald Clayton on piano and Johnathan Blake on drums, and longtime collaborator Greg Tardy on saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet. Listen to “Waltz for Hal Willner,” a heartfelt tribute to Frisell’s dear friend.
During the lockdown, like so many prolific artists, Frisell turned inward. “It was traumatic not to be with people,” he says, “so I picked up my guitar, and my guitar saved me.” For those months, he wrote stacks of melodies and compositional ideas. By the time he scheduled Four’s recording sessions, he’d amassed piles of notebooks filled with fragmented music. Laying little more than a sketch of information before his fellow artists, Frisell encouraged a kind of spontaneous, cooperative orchestration. “Everyone had the information, but it was super open as far as who plays what when,” he says. “Without a bass, it was a little scary, but I wasn’t thinking so much about the instruments. It’s always more about the chemical reaction that’s going to happen.”
Across the recording, each artist’s expression emerges as equal parts melodic and textural. Strong, subtle choices establish the music’s depth of character from the first phrase. Their collective counterpoint shapeshifts, but they remain true to each song’s initial idea. Rarely does anyone grab the mic. “Everyone is just jumping into it all together, and then you find this way of talking with each other,” says Frisell. “You listen to Miles Davis’ quintet and maybe Miles is taking a solo, but it’s the cooperative thing that blows your mind.”
Aspects of Four reflect Frisell’s affection for Americana, and skilled saturation of blues. But what’s poised to give the record its staying is less tangible. “The album is capturing this first moment in time when we were, all four, together, playing these songs,” he says. “Music is incredible that way because we’ll never play these songs this way again.”
Bill Frisell, guitar
Gregory Tardy, saxophone, clarinet
Gerald Clayton, piano
Johnathan Blake, drums
Frisell’s career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 40 years and many celebrated recordings, whose catalog has been cited by Downbeat as "the best recorded output of the decade."
Released March of ’18, Frisell’s latest album for OKeh/Sony is a solo album titled, Music IS - "Taken as a whole, the album beautifully encapsulates Frisell’s depth and range in all its meditative glory."- Chicago Reader. It was recorded in August, 2017 at Tucker Martine’s Flora Recording and Playback studio in Portland, Oregon and produced by longtime collaborator Lee Townsend. All of the compositions on Music IS were written by Frisell, some of them brand new – Change in the Air, Thankful, What Do You Want, Miss You and Go Happy Lucky – others being solo adaptations of now classic original compositions he had previously recorded, such as Ron Carter, Pretty Stars, Monica Jane, and The Pioneers. In Line, and Rambler are from Frisell’s first two ECM albums.
Frisell’s previous project, the Grammy nominated When You Wish Upon a Star also with OKeh/Sony, germinated at Lincoln Center during his two-year appointment as guest curator for the Roots of Americana series (September ’13 – May ’15). It features Frisell with vocalist Petra Haden, Eyvind Kang (viola), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) performing Frisell’s arrangements and interpretations of Music from Film and Television. Jazz Times described the project as follows: "unforgettable themes are the real draw here, reconfigured with ingenuity, wit and affection by Frisell and a terrific group."
"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." - New York Times
Recognized as one of America’s 21 most vital and productive performing artists, Frisell was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012. He is also a recipient of grants from United States Artists, Meet the Composer among others. In 2016, he was a beneficiary of the first FreshGrass Composition commission to preserve and support innovative grassroots music. Upon San Francisco Jazz opening their doors in 2013, he served as one of their Resident Artistic Directors. Bill is also the subject of a new documentary film by director Emma Franz, entitled Bill Frisell: A Portrait, which examines his creative process in depth.
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