Bill Frisell

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Bill Frisell, mœrs festival 2010

William Richard "Bill" Frisell (born March 18, 1951 in Baltimore , Maryland ) is an American guitarist . He is mostly categorized as a jazz musician, but has also worked in other musical genres from pop and film music to new music . Along with John Scofield and Pat Metheny, he was one of the best-known and most recognized guitarists of the 1980s and 1990s and is considered one of the most individualistic and innovative guitarists.

Bill Frisell 2007


Bill Frisell learned the clarinet as a child before switching to the guitar. He discovered jazz through the music of Wes Montgomery . Pat Metheny was a fellow student at the Berklee School of Music in Boston . Frisell learned from Jim Hall , among others . During a stay in Europe he made the acquaintance of jazz producer Manfred Eicher , who took him on with musicians from his label ECM such as Jan Garbarek and Paul Motian . Frisell played with Motian on numerous concerts and records until his death in 2011, mainly with the saxophonist Joe Lovano . The music of this time was characterized by a delicate and floating sound.

Frisell lived in New York City for most of the 1980s and was active in the local downtown music scene. During this time he often worked with John Zorn , including as a member of the band Naked City . During this period, Frisell also led his own trio with Kermit Driscoll ( bass ) and Joey Baron ( drums ). During this time his music developed more to a gripping, especially in the collaboration with John Zorn often "noisy" sound.

In 1992 he worked with Art Baron , Greg Cohen , Don Alias and Don Byron on the Hal Willner project Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus . In the mid-1990s, Frisell broke up his trio and moved to Seattle , Washington . He began to integrate elements of bluegrass and country music into his music, and since the turn of the millennium he has enriched his music with influences from Brazilian music and elements of funk . He thus developed into a musician with a distinctly eclectic style.

The music of Bill Frisell

Joe Lovano , Paul Motian and Bill Frisell performing live in Rome

A special characteristic of Bill Frisell's music is his individualistic sound, which Peter Erskine praised early on as a “one-in-a-million sound”, which in the 1990s was often described as “singing”. Later, however, he increasingly expanded the tonal spectrum of his playing, also with the help of electronic effects such as reverb or sampling . In the meantime he has an extremely wide repertoire of possibilities of expression on his instrument, but always remains immediately recognizable. John Scofield , who called him one of his favorite guitarists, said: “He transcends the guitar. He masters what he does - an emotional and lyrical musician. "

Frisell has worked with many jazz and pop musicians such as Dave Douglas , Charles Lloyd , Ginger Baker , Marianne Faithfull , Lucinda Williams , Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach since the 1990s and published numerous recordings. In the mid-1990s, he also played soundtracks for Buster Keaton's silent films . In 2004 he recorded a record that was inspired by Gerhard Richter 's paintings . Frisell has contributed original music to several films including The Million Dollar Hotel by Wim Wenders , two films by Gus Van Sant , Forrester - Found! and his remake of Psycho , American Hollow by Rory Kennedy, an HBO documentary about an Appalachian family, a radio show about the human genome called The DNA Files, and two animated films by artist Gary Larson ( Tales from the Far Side I & II ).

For the international music festival Ruhrtriennale Frisell curated the series " Century of Song " between 2003 and 2005 , for which he had exclusive concert evenings with Suzanne Vega , Rickie Lee Jones , Vic Chesnutt , Loudon Wainwright III., Van Dyke Parks , Chip Taylor , Marc Ribot , Vinicius Cantuária , Ron Sexsmith , Elvis Costello and other songwriters.

In 2005 Frisell was awarded the Grammy ("Jazz Album of the Year") for his album Unspeakable .



  1. See Martin Kunzler : Jazz Lexikon. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg, 1988, p. 385
  2. See Martin Kunzler: Jazz Lexikon. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg, 1988, p. 385

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