“Bill Frisell is the most innovative and influential jazz guitarist of the past 25 years.” The Wall Street Journal
An interview with Bill Frisell for Jazz Australia.
JA: Your current album “When You Wish Upon A Star” is an interpretation of various film scores. How did you chose the various films and was there an embarrassment of choice?
BF: Yes. There are SO many possibilities. I could easily spend the rest of my life exploring the extraordinary music that’s been written for film and television. All of the music chosen for this project has special meaning for me…..rich with all kinds of memories and associations. There’s the music itself, which of course stands on its own…but there’s the image, the actors, the story, the time, place, atmosphere …things going on in the world when I first saw the film. So much to draw from.
JA: Have composers like Nino Rota, Morricone and Bernard Herrmann interested and influenced you in the past?
BF: Of course. I love their music. They have all influenced me immensely. One of the very first recordings I did under my own name was a Nina Rota tribute album produced by Hal Willner. Nina Rota’s music and Fellini’s films have been a huge inspiration. Same with Bernard Herrmann and all the Hitchcock films. ….and Morricone. The way he uses guitar. Man!
JA: You must have played and owned many different guitars during your career – is there one particular favorite?
BF: Yes I’ve played and owned many many guitars. It’s kind of crazy at this point. Out of control. I always find myself coming back to a Fender Telecaster type guitar. Telecasters first appeared around the time I was born. They got it right. You can do almost anything with then. Very simple. A blank slate. They are easy to travel with.
But….I love all kinds of guitars …and switching things up from time to time. I learn something new with every instrument. They all have something to say. It’s like they all talk to each other and tell me things.
JA: You are renowned for your celebrated collaborations with a diverse range of other musicians. Without playing favourites can you recall some of your most memorable projects?
BF: I’ve been SO lucky to play with SO many different amazing wonderful musicians. I’ve had the chance to meet and play with many of the players that inspired me to want music play in the first place. Sometimes I think I must be dreaming. There are too many to name. It’s incredible how the world of music and musicians are connected. I never could have imagined …back then when I was in high school…one of the first “jazz” concerts I went to was to see Charles Lloyd. Paul Motian was playing drums. Keith Jarrett was playing piano. I went out and bought a Keith Jarrett record with Paul Motian and Charlie Haden. A few years later Paul called me on the phone and I played with him for 30 years. He introduced me to Charlie and Charlie’s daughter Petra. Later this week I’m playing a gig with Charles Lloyd. Petra, Thomas Morgan, and I also played with Paul Motian. I could go on and on and on about how this stuff is connected. It blows my mind.
JA: The guitar is such a universal instrument – have you any particular insight as to why this is so?
BF: Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Robert Johnson, Boubacar Traore, Segovia, Van Halen, Jim Hall, Thurston Moore, Julian Bream, Wes Montgomery, Maybell Carter, Bob Dylan, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Merle Travis all play the guitar. I’m not sure if there’s another instrument that has this kind of variety. It’s like an orchestra. You can do anything with it. Whatever is in your imagination.
JA: Guitar wise, who have you been listening to recently on record or impressed with in a live situation?
BF: Oh man. There are so many guitar players doing their thing. I’m sorry I don’t know where to begin.
JA: Can you tell us about the experience of making the recent documentary with Emma Franz?
BF: Emma really put so much time, care… her whole heart, soul……everything into making that film. I feel so lucky.
JA: What do you think of the finished product?
BF: I think she really was able to show some truth …truth that isn’t always seen…about the actual process one goes through to make the music. She is a musician herself and I was very happy with the musical choices she made, the editing of them, and how she was able to use that to tell the story.
JA: You have embraced many different styles of music and compositions – are there still frontiers you would like to explore?
BF: Every single day there’s something else to discover. If feels like the first time every time I pick up the instrument.
JA: It’s a somewhat clichéd question, but what can Australian audiences expect from your concerts around the country?
BF: I feel lucky to have an audience who understand that the music is always evolving and changing. They are willing to go along with the adventure. Every time we play we’re trying to find something new. It’s not a “show”. This project ..”When You Wish Upon A Star”….for sure we’ll play pieces from the album …but we’ve already added new ones ….and the old ones keep growing.
Bill Frisell (guitar), Petra Haden (voice), Thomas Morgan (bass), Rudy Royston (drums)
Fri 2 June – Melbourne International Jazz Festival – Melbourne Recital Centre – VIC
Sat 3 June – SIMA presents at York Theatre, Seymour Centre – Sydney – NSW
or call – 9351 7940
Sun 4 June – 2pm – ‘Bill Frisell – A Portrait’: Film Screening and Live Artist Q&A – Australian Centre for the Moving Image Star – VIC
Sun 4 June – 7pm & 9:30pm – The Jazz Lab – Brunswick – VIC
Sat 9 June – QPAC Concert Hall – South Brisbane – QLD
Sat 10 and Sun 11 June – Dunstan Playhouse – Adelaide Festival Centre – SA