Bill Frisell: a Half Century of Genius

Pictured above: Frisell and Williams at Royce in 2015

Bill Frisell. An iconic name, and even more iconic mind.

Having guest appeared alongside Lucinda Williams (2015-16 Season), with Charles Lloyd and with Lucinda again (2016-17 Season), and performing his original score for Bill Morrison’s film “The Great Flood” (2012-13 Season) it’s safe to say this Friday, December 5th will not be Frisell’s first rodeo with us.

A leading jazz guitarist since the 80’s, Frisell hasn’t limited himself to one genre or wave of music. As part of the early downtown New York music scene with Naked City bandmates John Zorn, Fred Frith,Wayne Horvitz and Joey Baron, a composer of film scores for documentarian Bill Morrison and silent films of Buster Keaton and his forays into Americana and country music, Frisell has revolutionized what it means to be interdisciplinary. 

But I pause here to bring up the concept of “collaboration.”

A seemingly common trend among those in the arts world, collaboration is important for creative growth and networking. But Frisell takes collaboration to a whole new level. Having worked with extraordinary artists in duos, trios, quartets, and quintets, Frisell opens doors into a groundbreaking concept that is not traditionally seen: diverse and cross-genre work. 

Allow me to delve deeper: the Bill Frisell Trio is renowned for their spontaneous performances of music derived from Frisell’s entire musical repertoire on the fly, while other niche collaborations push Frisell into specific, ethereal corners of music and art. Frisell’s work on The Great Flood, alongside Bill Morrison, depicts the tragedy of the 1927 Mississippi River Flood that displaced multitudes of sharecroppers to northern cities. This work was conducted in a thoughtful manner, supplemented by a completely original score created by Frisell in place of dialogue.

The two pieces described above merely scrape the top of the deep and vast world of collaboration and focus in which Frisell has led his work in the past. Driven by improvisation and a sense of play, Frisell’s 40 years of experience adds fresh new flare to all the music he creates. 

Rock or jazz, country or blues? Which will he explore next? We are thrilled to bring back Bill Frisell to play alongside Julian Lage on the Royce Stage on Friday, December 5th!

Until then, let the wise words of Frisell inspire you in your approach art and creativity:

“ I hate labels; the problem is that if you say you’re one thing, it’s hard for people to imagine you as something else. Music is way more complicated than that. In so many ways, it feels the same now when I play as the very first time I picked up the instrument.”