Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bill Frisell

Always a very original guitarist with a sound of his own, Bill Frisell mixes together the influence of Jim Hall with aspects of country music, avant-garde jazz, rock and his own fertile imagination. Born in Baltimore in 1951, Frisell grew up in Denver. He played clarinet starting in fourth grade and at one time thought of becoming a classical clarinetist. He found his way to the guitar and, after a period playing rock and R&B, he discovered Wes Montgomery and jazz. Frisell studied at the University of Northern Colorado with guitarist Johnny Smith, attended the Berklee College of Music, had a few lessons with Hall, and began developing his echoey atmospheric sound, utilizing volume pedals, delay, reverb, distortion and octave shifters in unusual ways. In the late 1970s he began a decade-long association with ECM, utilizing such musicians as Jan Garbarek and Paul Motian on recordings that established his reputation and made him an influential force.

He worked in New York in adventurous settings and since that time has collaborated with such musicians as John Zorn, Tim Berne, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull and Ginger Baker. His early 1990s recording Have a Little Faith includes a diverse group of compositions by artists ranging from Aaron Copland and John Phillips Sousa to Bob Dylan and Madonna. Frisell composed soundtracks for the films of Buster Keaton, recorded a trio set with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, and explored the country and bluegrass music of Nashville in his own fresh way. Among his most important work was with his 1980s quartet consisting of cellist Hank Roberts, bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Joey Baron, his collaborations with John Zorn (including Naked City), and his recordings with Paul Motian’s trio that include Joe Lovano. There is no mistaking Bill Frisell for anyone else.