STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
“I’m outrageously lucky,” says Bill Frisell, speaking from his home in Seattle, Washington. “I just can’t believe it. This just seems like a dream. The people that I’ve gotten to meet and play with — it just doesn’t seem real.”
As one of the jazz scene’s premier guitarists, composers and arrangers, Frisell rose to prominence in the 80’s. Combining elements of progressive folk, classical and country music, Frisell employs a variety of effects to create unique sounds on the guitar, earning him critical acclaim and adulation from his fans and his fellow artist’s.
Frisell’s latest release, “When You Wish Upon A Star,” features Frisell (electric and acoustic guitar), Petra Haden (vocals), Eyvind Kang (viola), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums and percussion). The album offers more than a dozen interpretations of classic film and television theme songs, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “You Only Live Twice,” “Psycho,” “Bonanza,” “Moon River,” “The Godfather” and “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
“It seemed a no brainer to just delve into it,” says Frisell. “So much of the music that’s in the tapestry of what’s in my imagination is coming from film and TV. It’s been so much a part of my whole life. I don’t just sit around watching TV all the time, but there’s no escape from it. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, it’s just there. It’s a part of what we are, and the music is such a huge part of it.”
“It’s really inspiring in so many ways,” adds Frisell. “Just the music itself, that’s the first thing. It’s so rich with inspiration. I connect those melodies with memories of emotions that I had when I saw the films. It might not even be specifically about the film. It could be some memory of what was going on at the time when I saw the film. It’s rich with emotion, and it’s much more than just the notes.”
“I could go on forever,” says Frisell. “I have to be careful spending the rest of my life (laughs) in this world because there’s so much stuff. There are so many possibilities. We had to get it down to some kind of manageable number.”
Working in this medium is just one facet of Frisell’s extensive list of creative accomplishments. His original work can be heard in the films “Finding Forester” (2000) and Buster Keaton’s silent film “Convict 13,” as well as in the 1995 TV version of “The Far Side.”
Frisell released his debut album, “In Line,” in 1983, and has since earned Grammy nominations for “The Intercontinental” (2003) and “History Mystery” (2008). He was awarded a Grammy in 2005 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for “Unspeakable.”
“Just being in the music community has been inspiring my whole life,” reflects Frisell. “Over the years, there have been these extraordinary opportunities that keep cropping up. Music is my whole life. That’s where everything really makes sense to me. The music just always tells me what to do. I feel like I’m not making these decisions myself. I just follow where the music leads me. It just draws me into whatever the next thing is.”
Currently on tour in support of his latest release, Frisell is excited to be performing in front of a live audience.
“I feel really lucky when I get to play for an audience,” says Frisell. “They become such an important part of the whole thing. I feel really lucky that the audience is willing to follow along with whatever kind of space I’m in at the time.
“Every night is different,” adds Frisell. “I never want the music to be stagnant. The songs happen in different ways every night. I am thankful that the audience seems to understand that. It’s really an awesome feeling when the audience is right there with you and feeling that same thing. They’re not expecting to hear a reproduction of the record. If that’s part of what their expectation is, it’s just the best thing when that all starts happening.”
“All I ever wanted to do was play. I never dreamed I’d be able to do this,” says Frisell. “I just don’t understand how it all happened. I just keep cracking away at it. I still feel like I’m at the very beginning, like I haven’t even scratched the surface.”