Bill Frisell: A Portrait (2017) Movie Script

BILL: I had this
incredible dream.
There were these little
elf-looking guys.
They would show me colours, and
it was like the most intense--
like I'd never seen red
that looked like that.
It was just so deep and
true to what red was.
And then they said, well,
we know you're a musician,
so we'd like you to hear
what real music sounds like.
So they made this
music happen that was
like everything I'd ever
heard in my life happening
simultaneously, just traveling
like a stream through my brain.
It was just so clear
and easy to understand.
It sort of gave me a
little bit of an idea
of what to strive for, or
to try for or something.
Thanks, folks.
Before we start,
it's a great pleasure
to welcome MIke Gibbs
and Bill Frisell.
He's a unifying force among
so many different musicians.
I don't know that many people
in as wide a range of styles
of music that have
as much respect
for anyone as they do for Bill.
He's universally loved.
Every day I wake up
and I start playing,
and I try to make
some kind of progress.
It's just such a
long, slow process
taking these tiny steps, tiny
increments along the way.
Well I'm a fan of
Bill Frisell's music
for a lot of reasons.
But mostly, it's
his sense of tone,
and the way he mixes colour.
Different forms of
music that he combines--
world music, a unique
kind of Americana that's
really Bill Frisell,
and of course he's
a great modern jazz player.
The dozens and
dozens of times I've
worked with Bill, whatever
it is, on one of his records,
the vendors thing with Bono,
Brian Eno, Lou Reed or Keith
Richards, Elvis Costello, Dr.
John, Marianne Faithful, David
Sanborn, Gus Van Sant, Sting.
He just makes everything
better and takes it
to a whole other level
of complete heaven.
It's like the angels
join the session.
I'm afraid to look up
Bill's discography.
It will be just endless people.
All of us, you won't
find one person
that have a bad word about
him, that doesn't admire him.
Not one!
I mean, I don't know anyone
else I can say that about.
I mean, period.
That's a fact.
He's perhaps had
one of the loudest
impacts on creative guitar,
not just jazz guitar.
His impact on the landscape
of creative music,
not just guitar music,
is incalculable.
There was a time in
the '80s, but certainly
in the early '90s, where
Bill's influence seemed
very widespread.
And I was hearing lots of guitar
players, and very good ones,
but at whom I could point
my finger and say, Ah!
You know, I hear Bill in you.
And I won't mention any
names, quite a few of them
live in New York City,
but they're everywhere.
The trebbly tone, I started
hearing all over the place.
And this kind of also, shall we
say, natural chorusing that you
get from slightly
bending the guitar neck,
also people started doing with
either by bending the neck
or with the tremolo
arm of their guitar.
And I found myself doing it too.
I still find myself doing it.
I think Bill,
however, cemented it
in the ear of the jazz
aficionado or the guitar
drawn with that pen.
Inked with it, rather.
Drawn in pencil, inked with pen.
This took me about two days to
ink because it goes so slow.
BILL: Just to be able to
change the scale that you're
working in so drastically.
This is not a prop.
This nib here was made
by a Seattle craftsman,
and the body of it was made in
a sheet metal fabricators place.
And then this hole
was cut by a jeweler.
And then this engraving
was done by a guy
who engraved gun mechanisms.
And then these studs were
welded on by a welder.
And then it was
all brass plated.
Well to go from this
kind of a scale with a--
This just takes a lot longer.
You were already
a local celebrity.
You had a name.
I had heard of you, but I
hadn't heard your music.
And then when I
did hear it, I was
afraid to actually
talk to you in person,
because it was like meeting
Einstein or Albert Schweitzer
or somebody.
I just didn't
really feel I could
hold my own in a
conversation with somebody
of your abilities.
It would be a mistake
to muddy up what
you do with a lot of words.
Well, I think that's
why we hooked up,
because there's so
few people where
you don't have to try to--
as I'm struggling now to
find some kind of words
to talk about.
Yeah, you know we
never really have
discussed what it all means.
We just speak about
it real quietly
and vaguely like we
don't want to disturb it.
Don't want to break the spell.
Which I think is good, because
you know, if you something
you can kind of wreck
something by throwing too much
light on it, I think.
Or trying Or by trying
to categorize it
and putting it to
words it can change
the way you think about it,
and the way other people
think about it.
Being naive, for me, is it
seems like the best things I do
are the things I do before I
figure out what they actually
are, you know.
Something will come out,
something will appear to me.
I'll get at something, when I'm
more in a state of not knowing
what I'm doing.
And then once I figure
it out, I learn about it.
It's sorta like,
oh man, you know,
I have to get onto the next
thing that I don't know about.
Every time I try to
pin it down with words
or descriptions, it limits
what the thing actually is,
'cause it's not--
that's not what it is.
There's an expression
in the music or even--
I mean as a same--
That's what I believe,
is drawing, and music,
and painting it comes
from the same instinct
we have to do these things.
And we wouldn't do it if we
could just talk about it.
And it would say everything
we needed to know.
So just by putting
words to it, it
sort of blocks some of
the possibilities of what
it could mean for people.
And each person that hears
my music or each person that
looks at your stories
or your drawings,
it's going to resonate with
a different part of them.
There's no way I
can control that.
I just have to put it out
there and then every person
hears something different
and I mean I'm sure
there's some kind of universal--
we have something in common, but
everyone has their own history.
And different things are going
to resonate at different times
with different people.
Oh no, before I go in there.
There's another painted guitar.
Another friend of mine, who made
that painting Claude Uttley,
and I also have a
lot of his artwork.
He did one of my album covers.
This is another kind
of far out guitar.
He did this.
I'm drooling on my guitar.
Did you get that?
Oh man.
I just love it so much.
It's weird playing all these,
'cause it just makes me wanna--
I wish I could have them
all with me all the time
but you can only
play one at a time.
So I don't know.
Do you want to see some more?
EMMA: What's in the closet?
So I have to open the closet.
Oh boy.
Yeah, this was-- I was
hesitant to show you this,
because there's a lot
of guitars in here.
Umm-- Oh dear, what should I do?
You know I'm showing you
all these instruments
and sometimes I
feel like there's
too much attention put on the
whatever the instrument is,
and the effects and
the pedals and--
I mean I think it's--
The sound has to be in
your imagination first,
and then you figure out a
way to get it to come out.
I mean I like to experiment.
You know, I'll just
turn on something
or I'll grab something and
just see what it sounds like.
I mean, that's
certainly a valid thing,
but I think what draws me to it
is something in my imagination
that I'm trying to get at.
One thing leads to another.
And then every time I see
'em, you know, when I see it,
it makes me want to play.
Like, but I just can't play
them all at the same time.
There's something to be said
about having one guitar.
Like, when I met Jim Hull
and 1971 or something,
he was playing the
same guitar that he
had been playing for maybe
15 years at that point.
And then he continued
to play that same guitar
for the next 20
years or something.
You know, he had one guitar.
So I don't know what I'm doing
with all this stuff, if it's
doing me any good or not.
I'm not sure.
BILL: When I was in high
school I heard Wes Montgomery
and it sort of opened this
window or flood gates,
into all this other music
that I didn't know about.
I was about 15 or 16
years old and there
was a moment when I realized
I've got to find a teacher.
I want to really get
serious about this.
And I asked around and I found
this guy Dale Bruning, who's
still active in Denver
teaching now and playing
and is an incredible musician.
So he started teaching me
the music, the Sonny Rollins
and Bill Evans and one of
the people he mentioned
was Jim Hall.
And Dale told me, he said, you
might not get this right away,
like it's not super
flashy like he's not
playing super fast or
super loud or super high,
but I was determined to get what
was going on with this guy, Jim
Hall and I guess the
heaviest thing was realizing
what it wasn't so much what
he was doing with the guitar,
but what he was doing
with the overall music
with the way he was reacting
to who he was playing with
and the way he was affecting
the sound of whatever context
he was in.
He had a way of supporting it,
or subverting it, or coloring
it, or influencing it rather
than jumping on top of it,
and waving his arms,
and screaming out loud.
He had an understanding
from the inside out
and could really,
really orchestrate
things and still
to this day just
the way he listens
and causes things
to happen from the
middle of the music,
that's when I'm still
learning from him.
BRIAN CAMELIO: Do you want
to do "Stella by Starlight"?
was the first tune
that Bill played with
you when he took lessons.
BRIAN CAMELIO: It was the first
that Bill played with you when
he first took lessons from you.
Oh yeah?
Sorry to hear that.
album Hemispheres
is a duo a project between
Bill Frisell and Jim Hall.
But I talked to Bill
before the session
to get an idea of
what he wanted to do.
He said always had this vision
of laying these beds of sound
down for Jim to just play over.
I realized very quickly,
in this surrounding,
that Bill is just such
a true improviser.
That he really goes
in and really tries--
or it seems, from
my point of view--
that he really tries to put
himself in the position of,
I don't know what's
going to happen.
But he'd sit down and he'd start
doing stuff with his pedals
and he'd start
playing, you'd hear
kind of little clicks and clacks
and little things like that.
And then all of a sudden
this sound would emerge.
All the motives that
he put together,
and what he did speeding
up, slowing 'em down,
and putting them
backwards, placing them
at particular times was
like an improvised symphony.
It had so much musical
structure to it.
And then Jim, I
mean for one take,
I think it's on the record,
it's called Migration--
--and it's about
15 minutes or so,
and I literally had to throw
a piece of paper at Jim
to get him to start
playing, 'cause he was just
kind of sitting there
listening, and it was just
this stuff that was happening.
We were like, wow,
this is just beautiful.
And I'm like, Jim!
I do think it's
essential for an form to--
I wouldn't say grow,
but to remain an art,
and to keep changing, I believe.
And I think Bill is
perfect for that.
Having played the guitar
since I was 10 years old,
I guess and I'm
about 25 now, I've
heard tons of guitar players,
good and bad, including me.
Some days it's good
and some days it's bad.
And I got to know Freddie Green
who was with Count Basie's
band all those years.
And I think Freddie
added dimension
to rhythm guitar playing.
And I really feel that,
oh then Charlie Christian
who was with Benny Goodman's
band for a short while.
Charlie died when he
was about 23 or so.
He was the one who
changed my life.
I heard him on a record.
But I really feel that
Bill is moving the guitar
to a different place
from where it had been.
Really inventive and
musical, and chance taking.
And it was about time
some somebody showed up
who could do that too!
I hope I've
influenced him a bit,
but he certainly
has influenced me.
I've just been listening
to the duet record
that Bill and I did,
and noticing the stuff
that he does behind me that
kind of is provocative.
It helps the creative process.
And also, I still
get surprised, I
must confess, because
I think of him I think
as kind of a far-out,
I don't know,
cloud-like eminence
or something.
But he can really swing too!
That's what you tend
to forget about.
I would like to say I feel
the elements of what--
I won't even say I taught
him, but what he might
have absorbed being around me.
When I do teach, I try to
draw the person out and have
the person sort of
find him or herself.
I think Bill has a unique
aura about him that
is kind of drawn, certainly me
into to taking chances more,
and so when you leave, I'm
going to go back and practice
some more.
There was a certain point
in the music where the bass
player laid out, the other
saxophone player laid out
and for a few minutes it was
just me, and Bill, and Joe.
And at that time
it struck me how
we could get my music
across with just the trio.
I didn't need to have a quintet.
And the trio sounded great
to me without the bass.
And I thought that
would be worth a try.
And that was the
beginning of it.
The Village Vanguard holds
about 120, 130 people,
but it was completely
sold out every set.
They filled the club
then they empty it,
and then they fill it
again for the second set.
So we do two sets a
night for two weeks.
And every time it's
completely sold out.
The place was never
I never saw it full
like I did these
last couple of weeks.
I mean even with Bill Evans Trio
and plus the Miles Davis Band
sometimes Charles Mingus or
John Coltrane and Modern Jazz
Quartet, Lenny Bruce, we
played in opposite Lenny Bruce.
The place was never
like that, never.
BILL: What an important person
Paul Motian is in my life.
The inspiration I get from him
it affects everything I do.
It's I mean it's huge.
I think the same for Joe.
It's like, gigantic the impact
that Paul had on both of us.
JOE: Did they give us the dates?
BILL: We both started
playing with him way
before we had any recognition,
and Paul saw something in us,
and allowed us to just
go for it and develop.
It's been 30 years or
so, and every time we
played I didn't know
what was going to happen.
The repertoire got
larger and larger,
but always felt
brand new every time
and I was always just
a little bit nervous,
you know it always had
that on-the-edge feeling
every single time we played.
PAUL: I think we recorded that
on the last Trio record we did.
BILL: We must have played
it last time 'cause
it was right in the pile.
BILL: It was at the top.
And I put the music
in alphabetical order.
PAUL: Oh, good for you.
BILL: But I left whatever
we played last time was
at the top of the pile.
PAUL: One time when before we
played down here as a group,
we had made a record,
and Bill and I figured
we'd bring the record
down to the Vanguard
and have Max Gordon
listen to it,
and maybe he'll give us a gig.
So we came down here and Max
was here, sitting down here
and we gave him the
record and I guess--
I don't know if it was
a CD or what it was.
BILL: I don't even know
if they had CDs then,
it was like a tape.
PAUL: Oh no, it was a
maybe a cassette, right?
And he played the cassette.
And he had earphones
and he sat like this,
listened to the whole thing.
It's like what,
almost an hour long?
Listened to the
whole thing and Bill
and I standing there waiting.
And then Max, finally he
said, after you heard it,
he said hmm, it's
really good and music
is good and everything,
he said, but where can we
put this music?
In other words, he's not
going to put it in here!
Maybe there's some other--
And Bill, Bill was down
here and he looked around
and he said, man I don't
know about playing here.
This is kind of a dump.
I don't wanna play in here.
PAUL: What year was that, Bill?
Like, '82.
PAUL: 1982 maybe?
Now we can get out.
Things change.
PAUL: Yeah, we're
here every year
now for two weeks
for the last, I
don't know, around
the same time of year.
10 years or more.
BILL: He was sitting
right here, right?
At this desk.
PAUL: Max?
BILL: Yeah, he was sitting
like this with the--
PAUL: No, I thought he was--
I thought he was
in a chair here.
BILL: Oh, oh, oh OK.
PAUL: '82 20--
BILL: 30 years.
PAUL: Almost 30 years ago.
never leaves the song.
He deals with the
tune we're playing.
Not just the chords.
Not just the beat.
Not just the rhythmic feeling
of what's happening around him.
He focuses on melody, and the
songs that we play together,
no matter what it
is, never leaves you.
We don't just play a
theme and then go off
and play what we practiced.
We try to develop ideas together
from the piece of music.
And that's the
art of improvising
and the essence of jazz
music as well, you know?
A lot of music I hear is more
like a technical exercise,
you know?
Like you could go for a walk in
the woods and not see a thing,
and just go for a walk.
Or you could go for
a walk in the woods,
and see all this beautiful
nature and things around you,
and that comes in and
comes out in your music.
Bill is one of the few
cats on the scene today
that has such beautiful
qualities about expression
and peacefulness, and he
lets that come through
in his playing all the time.
OK, if you like it so much,
buy a CD man, give me a break.
Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano,
Village Vanguard, thank you.
Thank you very much.
This friend of
mine Terry Tyrell,
painted this guitar for me.
And there's all
this stuff on here.
It's pretty dense
with information.
There's-- but he put things on
here that he thought I would
Like, there's Carole and
Monica, my wife and daughter,
are buried in there.
And they're there
they are again.
Here's Roscoe Holcome.
Here's Charlie Parker.
Here's my wife again, Carole.
There's Robert Johnson.
He's right there, really small.
But I just--
I haven't played this guitar
that much and then last night I
played it on a gig
and it was like, man!
Just reminded me, I gotta,
I have to not be afraid.
Sometimes I get
afraid of these--
traveling around I don't
want scratch them up
and everything, but--
They're supposed to be played.
I gotta take this thing,
because it sounded really cool.
I wanna not be afraid
of bashing it up.
EMMA: Yeah, and last night had
a different to the night before.
So do you think you kind
of play differently when--
Yeah that's what my
excuse for owning all these.
I mean, there's a just sort
of gluttony of material.
Sometimes I feel guilty about
that, but then each one of them
gives me something, you know?
It's almost like
they feed each other.
I'll play one of them
and it'll lead me
into some kind of a somewhere.
It will take me somewhere
that another wouldn't.
And then if I go back
to the other one,
I'll remember what happened
with the previous one,
and I can kind of get there
with that something else will-
so that's my excuse for
owing all these instruments.
Besides just the material
decadence of it, I guess.
'Cause I do play all
of them, you know?
Not as much as I'd like, because
I'm like I said, I'm traveling
and I just, I don't have
roadies and all that stuff.
I just carry one guitar,
maybe two if I'm really lucky.
So when I get home, I've
got them all around me,
and sometimes it gets
confusing before I go out.
You know, I'll get
home for a few days
and then I spend a lot of
time just sitting around.
I'll wonder which one I
should take out this time.
But now I'm pretty
fired up about this.
I want to take this out more.
EMMA: What is that head you play
over those Giant Steps changes?
Oh, it's actually a "26-2"
it's a Coltrane song that he
wrote based on "Confirmation",
which it's that all those Giant
Steps chords but, I can hardly--
See, I can't even play it.
EMMA: You better do some
practice before tonight.
I know, it's weird.
like 'cause on the gig I can
kind of play it, you know?
But here, I'm sitting here--
EMMA: Do you think the energy
of the audience or the band
Well definitely it doesn't
hurt to have a band there.
I can't even remember
how I played it.
I'll get it tonight, I promise.
I mean, growing up in the age
of the '80s and hearing people
like Van Halen who like shred--
--all the time here is a
person who, not that he,
he shreds in a different way.
It's a really, it's really,
it's a well-paced shred.
And but it also speaks volumes
about what is sound too.
And his intention behind all
the sounds that he makes.
It's an approach that's
careful and sensitive.
And that I think separates
him from the bunch
by a far distance too.
Whether it's a vocalist, or an
instrumentalist, or a composer,
I've always been drawn to
people who didn't waste notes.
And that's the first thing
I noticed about Bill.
Bill, you know, I just
love it when people just
wait for the right moment
to make a statement.
And one note could just
mean so much if it's really
with everything you got.
It just means so much more,
'cause it's going to be in--
it's going to be in a place
where you feel it there,
you know?
And Bill had that
quality, you know?
You know so many people,
instrumentalists, they just
learn things.
And they play-- you play like
what you practice, basically.
A lot of people practice just
notes, and notes, and notes,
and notes.
And they get on the gig
and that's what you get.
And Bill never--
I never-- only as a joke
sometimes at sound-check--
he would imitate these
guitar players who
made their career off of playing
a lot of notes and you know,
he would do an
imitation of trying
to do that and get his
fingers caught in the strings.
It's very funny.
But usually, he could
never finish a phrase,
because he would be
laughing so hard.
His fingers would get
stuck in the string.
But those were always nice
moments at a sound-check
when we would just kind of give
a brief nod to that condition
MIKE GIBBS: What I want to do
today is get through the notes,
just so I can get used
to this instrument.
And then Bill and I will,
knowing what we've got,
try and put it into a program.
Give it to me?
BILL: I first went to
Berkeley as a guitar major,
and it didn't click with me.
I left, and I went and
studied with Jim Hall.
In 1975, I went back.
I couldn't believe
Mike Gibbs was there,
because he was another one of
my heroes from years before.
BILL: As soon as I
could, I took every class
that he had or tried
to get into it.
My main focus was the
guitar, but I majored
in arranging and composition.
I was more interested in
the ideas and the concepts.
That's great.
That's awesome.
But you've got to play.
Yeah, yeah.
I started to and then I thought
I better just see what's--
I'm stunned.
I wanted to soar.
No, I will.
I'm just.
I feel like I can play
anything and it's so easy.
Oh, good, I want that.
I'm just sort of stunned.
I don't know what to say.
But don't be stunned
into silence, please Bill.
Be stunned into--
No, no, not--
I'll play.
It just feels like the
inside of my brain.
Well, it is.
But I mean or what I
wish was in my brain.
I got it out of there.
We're in London.
And are we coming--
Oh, this is Buckingham Palace.
BILL: Is the Queen in there?
MIKE: Oh, that
might mean she in--
BILL: I wonder if she's
coming to the concert?
MIKE: I think she's just going
to listen to it on the radio.
BILL: The guy that made
my guitar, Jay Black--
Keith Richards wanted a guitar
that looked like it was old
and beat up, and
Jay did it for him.
That sort of began this
whole relic guitar thing.
It makes me play better.
MIKE: Yeah, it does, I agree.
You can actually play better?
I mean, I'm pretty much
at the top of my game, but--
no, I don't know.
I don't' want to
work with amateurs.
You don't want
to work with what?
Having said that, I love
working with students.
They're always so eager,
and willing, and malleable.
It feeds me.
I mean, actually, the students
I get to work with seem so good.
I don't remember being,
my team being that good.
Back when I was a student?
Yes, well, I remember
when suddenly everyone
was practicing being
and playing in 5/4,
it was so new and unusual.
BILL: Now everybody
plays in 17/8.
MIKE: But today's players, I
dig up some of these old charts
and they just rip
right through them.
And then I notice, what one
wants is the simplest music,
but played extremely well.
Here we are.
We are.
through the next doors
right before you and
turn left into what
I call our Barbarella lounge.
Because it's sort of
lovely and round and--
That's one of the few illegal
things I did in my life.
You know, it wasn't
x-rated, but she had these--
MIKE: Big blue eyes.
Wasn't it like plastic?
MIKE: Yes.
And I went to the theater.
And I think I was 15
and you had to be 16,
and I said, well I'm 16.
And I went-- I snuck
in even underage.
MIKE: Did it ruin your life?
No, it was nice.
I went to "Budd Abbott and
Lou Costello meets Frankenstein"
when I was 11 and in
was 12 year olds and up.
BILL: Really?
And he said to
me, how old are you?
And I said, 11, I mean 12.
And he said, anyway--
You had to be 12 to see that?
Well, it's because
of Frankenstein.
me start with you
Bill You're a renowned
folk and jazz guitarist.
What interested you in
the classical world?
BILL: Well, with
all those labels.
You know, folk, jazz,
rock, classical,
whatever it is,
it's all just music.
So, the fact that it's an
orchestra I guess that--
But it's not just an orchestra.
It's my bringing
to life something
that's been in my imagination
for such a long time.
But I'm not thinking of
it in terms of classical,
or this or that.
It's just music.
let me bring you in here,
because what Bill has said
is that you can somehow
actualize what's
in his imagination
and together you
create something.
So what is the process?
Since Bill's been out
there in the public I've
been to hear him a lot so now
what I'm hearing is his music,
his tunes.
And it's like nobody else's.
So, the technicalities
I've been thinking
about for a long time.
And I noticed with Bill,
he has an unconscious kind
of spontaneity to his music.
My experience with
classical orchestras
is that a conductor
comes in very well,
very ready with a
structure, gives a downbeat,
knows what they want, and
there's an end result.
And the orchestra is incredibly
good at doing it right.
And I've come in very
vague, and I wanted
them to be comfortable with it.
So we're combining
something structured
that's sympathetic
with the spontaneity.
So we're not going to do the--
We're not going to do that one?
Which one?
BILL: Monroe?
Are we going to do?
Do you want to?
That's not in tempo.
It's very rubato and slow.
BILL: Yeah, and I'm
just going to sort
of play against
whatever you play, so
don't worry about what it is.
CELLIST: Oh sorry,
pages are missing.
Well, what if it's-- what
we do this is as an encore,
and we just don't
want it to end,
and you can make it last
longer, if you want.
By then you might
have a train to catch.
CELLIST: There's all out of
natural harmonics, you know.
We've got those kind of things.
MIKE: Can you imagine all
the cellists doing that?
Will they do it at random?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I mean, if you do
it really quietly,
you can make it very
unobtrusive, and just
like go with your--
I'm more concerned
with randomness of it,
so it doesn't sound
like the same thing.
Oh, you don't
want it like, OK.
MIKE: They could make variation
like starting and stopping.
But I wouldn't I don't
want to sacrifice just that,
'cause I think that
will be a good--
No, we'd make that
the centerpiece of it,
because it took be longer.
Closer to the time we can
decide whether to start this way
or to end this way.
His own sense of
pitch, his own sense
of sound, his own
sense of melody,
his own sense of
consonance and dissonance.
The way things move.
The length of things.
The way things began and ended.
That was all Bill.
And I had never heard
anyone quite like it.
I heard after a few years,
many people imitating him,
but by the time they were
imitating one period of him,
he was already on next.
And it still sounded more like
Bill, even more like Bill.
That's a great thing
of jazz storytelling,
is to be able to tell one
story and be recognisable,
even though you're
changing it constantly,
updating it all the time.
I thought he was
using some kind of--
you know, guitar players
use these different pedals
to create effects, bends,
and distortions, and delays
and what have you.
But no, he was physically
taking the neck of the guitar
and pushing it and bending
it and it was like a--
created this very eerie vibrato.
It's like he's almost--
I almost viewed him as sort
of made of rubber, you know?
Like the way he played always
sounds like it was very rubbery
and made of this
very elastic quality.
And these things
just got magnified
when he would use these
little boxes, and effects,
and the guitar synthesizer.
No matter what it did,
it sounded like him.
And I always had a problem
with these kind of effects,
because for me, because
sometimes when I use them,
they sound like an effect.
I mean they sound
like, well this
is the way I sound on
the guitar, you know?
If I play a note, this is
when I phrase something.
But when I start to use a lot
of these devices, some of that
personality goes away and I
could be different people,
you know.
But with Bill, I always feel
it does that doesn't happen.
The effects are not
effects with him.
They're part of his sound and
he's just extended this rubber
quality into these effects.
Then what comes out is
something very unusual
and musical almost all the time.
You'll find something
out of all this stuff.
BILL: When I first
started to use distortion,
I think what was
motivating me that time I
wasn't really listened to
you think of a fuzz tone
and you think of Jimi Hendrix
or "Satisfaction" or the Rolling
Stones or something and you know
it's something so associated
with the guitar,
but for me, there
was sort of a light went off.
I was I was listening
to jazz music.
I listened to a lot of
saxophone and trumpet.
And I mean it came from
hearing it on a guitar first,
but or with the delays,
I think that came more
from thinking about the
ability that a piano player has
to put down a sustain pedal or
just hold their fingers down
on the keyboard and have
notes ringing out while they
play other notes.
And that's something I'm
jealous of them about so--
That led me to
get a delay pedal.
And then after
using these things,
there's a sound
in my imagination.
I'm trying to get at.
And some of these devices
will help me get there.
And then, I found
after some time,
I can actually let them
go and I can at least
imply some of the things I was
doing with them with just the--
so I think I tend towards more
just a straight guitar sound
these days.
It was early in 1972,
I had met Jim Hall
and arranged to have
a lesson with him.
And so I came out here, and he
lives just a couple blocks from
And I remember that
feeling getting in.
I got here about a
half hour too early
and I was just circling
around these blocks
just with my guitar
case, walking
around just so
nervous thinking, wow,
I'm going to take a
lesson with Jim Hall.
At the time, it seemed like
you know, endless lifetime
of struggle, you know, from
those first visits to New York
and then I sort of
got discouraged.
And I went back to Colorado and
I taught music in a music store
and you know, I
still I just didn't--
I knew that I couldn't do any--
I had no choice.
I was just going
to play my guitar,
but I didn't really believe
I could- anything would--
I don't know I just
kept doing it somehow.
Right above this sex shop is--
I believe that's the building--
according to his
chronicles book.
Bob Dylan wrote a lot of great
songs up in whatever room
it was up there.
I guess the first big one
for me was "Mr. Tambourine
Man" by the Birds,
and then realizing
that it was this guy that
had written these songs.
And and then I started
to buy his records.
But that's someone
that's just stayed
with me for my whole life.
So I love to just walk
around here, you know,
a few blocks that way is
Charlie Parker lived over there.
And and then there's
cool guitar stores.
There's Matt Umanov
Guitars is over
on Bleecker Street and
Carmine Street Guitars,
the guitar I've been playing the
last few weeks, last few weeks
at The Vanguard.
I've had it for a
couple of years.
Rick Kelly made this guitar.
Now we're coming up
on all these people.
It's amazing how everyone's
looking like wow.
Little do they know,
I'm one of them.
This is Carole's spot.
She'll have a show
and then she starts
thinking about what to do next.
CAROLE: And drive everyone
crazy in the house.
BILL: And then
there's a period of--
CAROLE: Panic.
BILL: --where she's gets
maybe stuck for a while.
And when the
deadline gets closer,
she starts cranking
them out, right?
Is that sort of right?
CAROLE: I guess.
I mean, the deadline
is November.
I don't really
well on deadlines.
BILL: In lot of these,
there's a lot of paintings
underneath them as well right?
I recycle a lot.
BILL: I have trouble
with that sometimes,
because there's
paintings that I like.
And then it's where is it?
It's underneath that one, so.
Some of them have more than
one painting underneath them,
CAROLE: Yeah, yeah.
It builds history.
I try to keep one or two for
the shows without touching them,
but it's kind of hard.
After awhile I just
don't want to be bothered
thinking about going to get
new canvases, I just do it,
you know.
Everybody paints
over their stuff.
Well, not everybody, but I
think a lot of people do.
BILL: You and Picasso.
CAROLE: Yeah, me and
my friend Picasso.
No, a lot of people do it.
It's normal.
BILL: I met my wife
Carol in Belgium,
and she gave me the confidence
to take this next step.
So we moved together to
New York and then spent
a few years there.
Within maybe a
year or something,
I was playing with
Paul (Motian) and I
was playing with
Arild (Anderson)
and playing with
Eberhard (Weber).
And then all these things
started happening all at once.
And somewhere around
that time I get a call
from Manfred Eicher at ECM
asking me to do a solo album.
Now I don't know how
many albums I've made.
Well, I know, I mean I was with
Nonesuch for almost 20 years
and I made maybe one a year, so
there's 20 there, at least 20.
And then I've done a few other--
I did some for ECM, and
with other people, it's--
I have no idea.
It's 100s I would imagine.
Lee Townsend took over
Bob Horowitz' job at ECM
and that's where I met him.
We really sort of bonded
on my first album.
So he's been sort of
manager/producer guy
ever since then.
He's my friend first,
but then there's this,
you know, being a manager.
He tries to clear the way
so I can just do the music.
And more recently I felt like
I was moving faster than,
or just what I wanted to record
wasn't able to get it out
quite as fast as I wanted to.
And then Savoy comes along
and it's like bam, bam, bam.
That's just important to me to
get the music out when the band
is ready to do it or whatever
is in my mind that's--
I'm kind of spoiled, I guess.
I got spoiled by
being able to do that.
So I just want to
keep that happening.
And then Claudia Engelhart,
it's more than 20 years.
Just about every
single gig I've done,
she's been there doing
sound and traveling with me
and whoever I'm with.
It's like she's really been part
of the band and the music too.
And I just trust her so much
with knowing that the stuff is
getting out, the sound.
You know, so many things
she's taken care of that
takes the pressure off
of me so that I can
be thinking about the music.
I've been lucky being
able to connect with Bill
and to be able to have
such a career, such
a long career with him,
which is unusual for anybody.
I mean, you know,
a lot of people
don't get to spend that
much time with one artist
throughout, a whole, you know.
And just to be
able to experience
all the different projects.
I've just feel so lucky to
have that musical experience.
Every day it's just
that a high-high level.
BILL: Joey, I'd been
hearing about him.
And I knew I really
want to meet this guy.
And the first time
I played with Joey,
there was a recording
session with a lot
of people in the studio and
it was a little chaotic.
And Joey was over
in the drum booth,
and I was wherever I was,
and there was a lot of people
And we were playing, trying
to get through this tune.
And there was like
this one moment
that Joey played this back beat.
And it was in the dead-on
best possible place
you could possibly play.
Amongst this chaotic space he
nailed the whole thing down
and I just looked and we looked
straight at each other and we
smiled at each other and
I knew that, OK, that's--
this is my man here.
I swear to god, it was that
one note that hooked us up.
And then I went over to his
apartment soon after that,
and I was like, let's play.
So I went over and
we had no music.
We just started
playing and it was just
so much fun and so natural.
That just always felt
that way with him.
We used to get together
when we first met
and we'd just play
for hours in my loft.
And I was so excited.
I wanted to do a gig somewhere.
And I didn't know
how to do that,
because what we were doing,
It was not jazz as defined
by the jazz police.
And it wasn't, you
know, it wasn't any--
it wasn't in a box really.
We just had fun.
We both had fun doing it.
And I was just so
excited about it.
So I went around and
I would call people,
and most people said no.
And then I thought, the
Jewish Guild for the Blind!
I can't remember
why I thought them.
It wasn't for a religious
purpose or any affiliation
or anything, but I just
thought about, you know,
playing for people who maybe
wouldn't get the chance
to go to a club.
And since we couldn't
play in a club,
maybe there's a connect there.
So I went up to this
place and I talked
to the lady that
programmed events,
and she said,
well, I need to get
an idea of what you sound like.
So Bill had just done this
solo record called "In "Line".
It was on ECM.
I think it was his
first record for ECM.
And I took that record, a
vinyl record, and I had a--
I used to record myself
practicing or playing,
you know, and listen back
to see what, you know,
what's happening or what
do I need to work on?
So I had all these
cassette tapes,
so I just made a cassette
tape of me playing solo drums.
And I took the cassette
tape and this record
back up to this lady at the
Jewish Guild for the Blind.
And I put them on.
She got a turntable in her
office, and put them on
and I just played them
both at the same time
and I said this is
kind of what we do.
And she said, that's fantastic!
Let's do it!
And so we did this
concert and the audience
were these children and young
people that some of them
were hooked up-- you
know, it wasn't only
that they couldn't see
or they had trouble
hearing or speaking, you know.
It's really-- hard,
you know, hard hands
that they were dealt.
And it was that to this
day it was the best
audience I've ever played for.
I kind of, it makes
me cry a little bit.
But we played and we
were just do things,
I structured it like, oh, let's
do a piece about the ocean.
And that was, I said,
Bill let's do this.
Let's call it The Ocean.
And we would just think
about the ocean and play.
It was it wasn't written
out notation, in the form
or anything.
We just played what we
thought and they got it.
They got it the
same way that when
I hit that hit in the studio,
they you know, we were playing
and we looked at--
And we had a question and
answer after the concert.
And it was amazing.
It was unbelievable.
I wish every audience
could be half that
intelligent and aware.
It was-- it was incredible.
Remember one of the
girls, she couldn't see.
She had no vision.
And I think she asked, is
the guitar player cute?
When I came to
New York, Bill had
a gig at this place
called Chandelier.
He was playing with John Zorn
and Bobby Previte and Dave
I think Wayne Horvitz
might have been on the gig.
It was just a little place
on the Lower East Side.
And Bill was playing.
And I went there and this guy--
I'm in the audience
--and this guy comes up
and he has a guitar case and
he says, hey, can I sit-in?
And it was Arto Lindsay.
And I was just
completely offended.
You know, like, yeah,
what kind of shit is this?
And I was talking
to Bill, you know,
because he was giving
me a ride home afterward
and we got in the car.
And I said, Bill, man, what--
what was that?
And he said, oh, that's Arto.
You know, that's Arto Lindsay.
He's one of my heroes.
And he said that with, you
know, just he was serious.
And that really
turned my head around.
And I started checking
out more things.
And I can't say it was
easy, because there's
a learning curve when
you're doing things
that you don't know.
And it's difficult. It's
frustrating in anything
you're learning about.
And so my mind just kind
of got pried open too
a much wider spectrum.
JOHN ZORN: This was a
time at the beginning
of a community when people
really worked together,
because they loved it,
because there was something
exciting happening.
It was always an incredible
kick for the downtown scene
that a musician of the
stature of Bill Frisell
was interested in
working with us.
That was a kind of
validation in a way.
This is a musician that
can work with just about
anybody in the world, and
has, some of the greatest
musicians in the world.
And whenever Bill played,
it just got better.
It was always better,
no matter what music
it was, no matter
who was performing.
Bill's presence would lift
everything up to his level.
It was as if John Coltrane
had come in and said,
hey you guys are doing
something interesting,
I want to be involved.
And we were all like, my god.
Bill wants to play with us?
We must be doing
something right.
It didn't matter that we were
getting slammed in the papers
or that audiences
weren't coming.
We looked to each other
for support and Bill
was huge, a huge
influence on all of us.
Naked City, John Zorn
put that band together.
Inherently, we all trusted John.
Left up to our own
devices, I don't
know that I wouldn't go out
and check out hardcore music.
But John was totally
into it and he was really
in this phase of getting
that kind of intensity.
For Bill and I,
you know, we were
thinking man, a few months
ago, we were playing, you know,
"All The Things You Are."
And I think Bill too,
I remember, you know,
sometimes he'd
put his glasses up
and he'd have the
expression on his face
like, boy, I can't believe this.
And I think that's what
you know we weren't making
fun of the genre or but-- it
was just an honest delight
in that moment like,
wow, are we're really
doing this or hey it's work.
You know, we were doing
a lot with Naked City
and it was like, you
know, it was cool.
And then it kind
of got to the point
where, man, you know, I don't
know if I can do this anymore,
because it's so intense and--
It's exhausting
mentally and physically.
I mean it's
completely exhausting.
I felt like it was time for me
to just process all the things
that I'd been taking in.
I mean this is a place where
you're being stimulated all
the time, and it was
a time in my life
where I felt like I needed
to find my own music was.
When I first got here it was
like this sort of attitude
like this is the
only place where
there's anything going on.
I started to-- by
that time, my parents
had moved to North Carolina.
And I'd go down there and I hear
these amazing musicians that
had nothing to do
with New York that
had lived in the mountains
their whole life playing stuff
I'd never heard before or I--
I just started traveling
more around the country
and realizing there's music
happening all over the place.
And it just seemed
like a healthy thing
to do physically
and mentally both.
So I've been in
Seattle for 20 years.
But then, a few years go by and
then I still work here a lot
and now it feels as much
home here as anywhere else.
EYVIND KING: So like, 40
minutes later, I was like,
I know this song.
This is Bill.
This is plagiarism.
Oh yeah.
That's the best thing.
That was-- when he
played that for me.
EYVIND: Really?
He said--
I met him for the first time.
He said, here check this out.
And it was like I
couldn't, because that's
like what I-- that's what
I wish that I could do.
EYVIND: Really?
'Cause he took--
he actually took stuff that I
played and just had a little--
and it wasn't just the tune.
He took stuff from
a recording where
I had played, like a solo too.
So it has that in it.
But it's all like
broken apart and--
I thought that was great.
"RICHER 858 3"
HANK: The way Bill
writes music, it sort of
makes me feel like
it's my mine, in a way.
And with this group,
all of us in that realm,
we can sort of turn on a dime.
And the-- the band
can go anywhere.
And for string players,
we have as much power
as anything in the band.
"RICHER 858 3"
Well, we can always
just play that one.
I mean it's OK for the
gig, like if we just say,
OK let's try this one that we
haven't tried in a long time,
and we just play it?
'Cause we won't have
time to play everything.
I mean, on the gig, it'll
be sort of like a rehearsal?
HANK: He's not afraid
to play real simply
and to support the piece.
He's not really in
it to show how much
technique or great chops he
might have, or great years.
I think he's really
thinking about how
can the music be good?
Hey, how about-- do you want
to just take like 10 minutes
so we can air--
you go get drunk?
Or something?
AUDIENCE: We're not
lightweights here, come on,
it takes us more
than 10 minutes.
Man, it doesn't take me two.
These are my
Bill Frisell socks.
One of the things
that sets Bill apart
from other guitar players
besides the socks he wears
is that Bill's music--
and I hate this word
universal, because it's
kind of a throw away
word, you know--
but Bill's music is
somehow it gives itself,
it directs itself towards
the musical mindset
of the audiences who
come to hear him.
The thing that's that
makes it possible to me
why he can cross over so
many walls is that basically
Bill doesn't play shit.
I mean, he doesn't
play bullshit.
You know, it's
integrity, you know.
And people-- who wouldn't
want to be around that?
Who wouldn't want to
find out more about that?
I think that I thought that I
didn't like country music early
As I've gotten older, I
think part of the deal
is not being afraid to
admit that there's music
that I do like.
Or I mean, there's
so much music that I
love that I maybe wouldn't
even admit at certain times.
Like, I think when
I was younger,
I was more concerned
with what I thought
was fashionable or cool.
You know,
discovering jazz music
was like a it was definitely
a period of shutting out
other things and
trying to, I want
to be a really hip jazz guy.
I had a prejudice
or something about--
I didn't know it.
I didn't even know that I
knew it as well as I did.
I didn't even know
how infiltrated just
about everything was with it.
So I did like it, and I
don't know I do like it.
As I'm getting older,
there's this thing
about being comfortable and
not afraid to admit that
or to recognize the music that
you that moves you, you know?
And then there's
this sort of process
of looking back and trying to
firm up the roots of wherever
it is I'm at now and discovering
that when I was a kid
I was listening to
the Loving Spoonful,
and then realizing that
oh yeah, that music
was coming from old time--
I didn't even know that.
I thought it was just pop music.
I didn't even know
the Rolling Stones
were listening to Muddy Waters.
I didn't know Muddy Waters was.
Or I didn't know that Bob Dylan
was listening to the Carter
family or Hank Williams.
Or the Beatles were
listening to Buck Owens.
Or you know, if the
music is doing something,
if people just listen
to it, you know,
forget about all
that what it's called
and the whole way
things are set up.
I mean I do it here.
I'm sitting here
and I always say,
I don't like categories and I'm
sitting right behind all my CDs
and they're--
they are categorized.
So I'm a hypocrite I guess.
You hear the kind of
the history of the guitar
when he plays, all
these elements,
but you still hear Bill.
So he's not a country
player, but he
plays with a country sound
and a feel, a lot, you know.
He's not an avante-garde
musician totally,
but he plays with the out-est
of the out sometimes, you know,
and he fits right in.
But underneath it all is this--
is jazz.
It's that sound, though.
It's his-- it
pervades everything.
That's what makes it so special.
It's cool how
Bill writes music.
I don't know when he does it.
He must, you know, he
must say, you know, uh,
I'm going to go get a cup of
coffee and sit in the yard.
And all of a sudden, he's
got like three new songs.
And like I don't
know when he does it.
It's like a secret.
But they just make sense, and
somehow they come out complete.
And even if he
changes stuff later,
the feeling of that thing is
already there, no matter what.
He went off to Vermont and
this is I saw him right after
he came back, and I
said, so did you get--
did you come up with
some great new music?
And it turns out he had written
60 pieces in what was basically
two or three weeks.
And I said, did you--
do you have them--
how do you remember
all of those?
Do you record them?
He said, no, I just put them
on-- put some notes on a paper.
And not only was he,
you know, coming off
of an incredibly packed schedule
to be able to summon yet
another round of
60 compositions,
then he flew to San
Francisco near where I live,
and we went to--
I went to the club to hear him
play with this wonderful string
And they had never really
rehearsed the song.
They just looked at the--
and they would play-- they
played perfectly these
beautiful compositions,
which I believe had
never been heard before.
And they were going to record.
So I just-- my
admiration for him
and astonishment at his gift.
And his how prolific he is.
It's just like an eternal fount.
I hope no one can read
music, because he's just not
too much happening here,
but I just kept on going.
This is the way things usually
Thanksgiving 26th, 25th, 26th.
Staring to get
more dense chords,
and things are developing.
Music's getting deeper
and deeper as we go along.
Here there's, you know,
counterpoint starts happening,
and this just it's
CAROLE: You gotta
believe in yourself.
November 28th.
Some lower arpeggios.
And more just excruciating
and beautiful melodies
are starting to emerge.
I mean, should I keep going?
So far I haven't
missed a day, I think.
CAROLE: You haven't?
Let me see.
And so it goes back
to December 1st.
And I wrote down a "Freight
Train", "Cannonball Rag",
"If I Only Had a Brain",
and "Tea for Two".
Those were songs I
was thinking about.
If I sift back
through this stuff,
there'll be enough,
you know, usually
that's what-- it'll
there's enough little bits
of information
that'll get me going.
There might even be some
complete tunes in here,
but I gotta--
there's an awful lot of
editing and adding to.
But this is all just sort of a
stream of consciousness stuff.
Try to write it down fast
and just let things come out.
I have no idea what's here.
Like I don't even remember.
Does that sound like a song?
I don't know.
I don't know what's in here.
It's almost like
somebody else wrote them.
I don't know what it is.
There's something cool about
playing these things when
I don't know what they are.
That's what a lot of times--
like a couple records
that I did with Paul--
we like-- actually
the last two records,
he wrote all this new music
and we just played it on the--
we went into the studio
and we didn't even--
we're just playing as it was a--
--bunch of times he told me
that I sound better when I
don't know what--
when I don't know the tune.
There's something to be
said for that, I think.
So maybe I should,
if I had any balls
I would go into the studio
with this stuff and just do it.
There's one that actually
Kenny never played
and I have hardly played.
The one that says December 12th.
We could just play
it together, I guess.
JASON: Yoshis was
interesting for me,
because it was the
first game of this trio.
So Bill sends me like
100 pieces of music.
Maybe it's not that
many, but I felt
like when I receive this packet
it has his anthology, you know.
Like a lot of music to look at!
And then he said to me, like
we might look at these 45 too.
You could say I have a lot of
different bands or different--
There's a body of
music that I've
written that maybe is
a lot of that music
is common to a lot
of these people.
I don't know.
This is messed up, because
the bottom line is in treble.
Oh that's why it
sounded so cool.
Oh no.
It sounded so modern!
You know, you get a
different perspective on it
every time someone new
plays it, or even just
if some time goes by.
When I come at it
again, it's like wow,
I didn't realize that
was even in there.
Whether it's something
that I've written
or whatever song, the
longer I stay with it
all these other things
start to grow out
of it and something
in my imagination that
comes you know harmonic
way, or in some color,
or orchestrational way.
It always comes from the melody.
For me what keeps it--
the real reason for doing
it is that it'll generate
something new to happen.
It's not to get back something
cool that happened before.
Like, that that's one of the
hardest things for me to--
I mean, like last
night we played
some of the songs in a way that
I was completely surprised by.
We were all on the
same wavelength
and the stuff came out and I
was like, wow, this is great,
you know.
So now tonight, I got
to, I got to forget about
that, you know, because
trying to get back to it
is recipe for, no
disaster but just
for not having something
else cool happen.
Thank you.
Thank you Jason.
Kenny, thanks a lot.
Kenny Wollesen, Jason
Moran, thank you.
That's freaking gorgeous man.
Oh man!
That's a beautiful song, man.
1994, man, I finished
my first year of college.
That's when it says
this was written.
It's just so organized, man.
It was written
way back before--
I was like, whoa,
this cat is organized.
No, no, no.
Actually that was like maybe
the second tune I wrote.
JASON: Whoa!
KENNY: Really
I mean that would seem
like a tune, you know?
And the first
one was the there's
one called "Throughout".
Oh, let's do that
then, "Throughout".