If one concept can be said to define the expansive, unprecedented career of Bill Frisell—a “fearless and adaptable guitarist,” per The New Yorker—it might be that of connection. Frisell, now 68, can’t help but draw lines between the landmarks of his life in music.
KUVO PRESENTS—Bill Frisell: HARMONY at Boulder Theatre on Tuesday, March 3 at 8pm (doors at 7pm).
He likes to think about the rich commonalities among the jazz, roots, rock and pop music he grew up immersed in. He smiles when he chats about the enduring relationships he’s formed with his fellow musicians over the years—how old friends cycle in and out of his fold, and how one chance introduction can lead to a profound, decades-long rapport. He’s also astonished by how the jazz culture he grew up admiring from afar—the iconic players, the monumental labels, the venerated festivals and clubs—has become the place where he makes his living.
HARMONY, Frisell’s first recording under his name for Blue Note Records, embodies this idea of revisiting kin-ships more than perhaps any other project in his abundant discography. “It’s wild, at this point in my life, thinking back all the way to high school and all these strands of things coming together,” he reflects. “And here I am now—I have an album coming out on Blue Note. Is it possible that I could be part of all this?”
Produced by Frisell’s longtime collaborator Lee Townsend—and recorded by Tucker Martine at his studio Flora Recording in Portland, Oregon—HARMONY features the guitarist with a wholly distinctive quartet comprising two longtime collaborators—Petra Haden, voice; Hank Roberts, cello and voice—plus a relative newcomer, Luke Bergman, on acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, bass and voice. Throughout, Haden’s dreamlike, often wordless lead vocals and the trio’s quietly powerful harmonies grant Frisell’s music dimensions it’s never known before. Remarkably, the thoughtful beauty and evocative patience that mark his guitar playing are both smartly accented and greatly magnified.
HARMONY is Frisell’s bona fide Blue Note debut, an opportunity for jazz’s most storied label to document the work of “the most significant and widely imitated guitarist to emerge in jazz since the beginning of the 1980s,” according to The New York Times. Longtime fans will recognize Frisell’s ongoing calling to both honor the totality of American music and represent his personal history with integrity. (Or, as Blue Note President Don Was puts it, “I love the way that Bill annihilates the concept of genre.”) “If I think back throughout my whole life, all the music that I’ve loved,” Frisell begins, “why can’t it all be there at the same time? You can play a Bob Dylan song and you can play a standard song or a Charlie Parker song, and they can fit together. Why not? There’s no reason why you can’t have ‘Lush Life’ and ‘Red River Valley’ on the same album. They’re both beautiful songs.”