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Bill Frisell’s "Guitar in the Space Age"

Six-string great interprets his earliest inspirations at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Bill Frisell performs his "Guitar in the Space Age" program at Jazz at Lincoln Center; June 2014
Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr, Kenny Wollesen and Bill Frisell (from left) at Jazz at Lincoln Center in June 2014, performing Frisell's "Guitar in the Space Age" program

“Does it help to let you know I was born in 1951?” asked Bill Frisell last Friday at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, before easing into the second show of “Guitar in the Space Age,” a program of the postwar country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll that inspired him as a boy. Accompanying Frisell were Greg Leisz on pedal steel and guitar, Tony Scherr on upright and electric basses and Kenny Wollesen on drums and vibraphone-longtime collaborators with an especially developed understanding of the leader’s style-melding, chamber-like take on American music.

To know that Frisell is a baby-boomer was important, yes. The music he played, by the Beach Boys, Duane Eddy, the Chantays, Link Wray and others, is the stuff of childhood innocence for the Vietnam generation-the beach-party calm before the storm of cultural explosions that would transform America in the second half of the ’60s. But other résumé bullets would have been equally beneficial in making sense of the following 90 minutes: that Frisell performed in one of jazz’s most deeply interactive trios, with Paul Motian and Joe Lovano, for three decades; or that he helped to redefine the jazz guitar as a textural instrument while a go-to player for ECM Records. To put it more directly, this was a rock ‘n’ roll gig executed with the temperament and group dynamic of postbop.

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