Personalities | Bill Frisell | Sensational Session Star | Guitar Heroes

Bill Frisell (b. 1951) is a North American guitarist and composer who built an eclectic career creating guitar music in several disciplines and genres.

He was born William Richard ‘Bill’ Frisell in Baltimore, Maryland, but spent most of his youth in the Denver area. He went to the University of Northern Colorado, where he studied guitar with Johnny Smith. After graduation, he went to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and studied with jazz legend Jim Hall.

Frisell’s major break came when Pat Metheny recommended him to drummer Paul Motian for a session. Motian’s label, ECM Records, made Frisell its in-house guitar player, and he worked on several albums. Frisell’s first solo release was In Line (1983), a solo guitar album, with contributions from bassist Arild Andersen. In the Eighties Frisell worked with saxophonist-composer John Zorn and worked with many others in New York. He again worked with Motian’s trio, along with saxophonist Joe Lovano. In 1988 Frisell left New York City and moved to Seattle.

In the early Nineties Frisell made two of his best-known albums: Have A Little Faith (1992), an ambitious album tackling Charles Ives and Aaron Copland (‘Billy The Kid’), John Hiatt (the title song), Bob Dylan (‘Just Like A Woman’), and Madonna (‘Live To Tell’); and This Land 1992), a complementary set of originals. He also performed soundtracks to the silent films of Buster Keaton with his trio, and contributed to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s album Heartbeat.

In the mid-Nineties, Frisell provided music for the TV version of ‘The Far Side’. It was released on the album Quartet (1996) along with music written for Keaton’s ‘Convict’. Some of Frisell’s songs, including ‘Over The Rainbow’ and ‘Coffaro’s Theme’, were featured in the movie Finding Forrester (2000). In 2003, Frisell’s The Intercontinentals was nominated for a Grammy Award. He won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for Unspeakable. Recent releases include Floratone (2007), History, Mystery (2008), Hemispheres (2008), and Disfarmer (2009).

Frisell’s eclectic work, though rooted in jazz, has touched on progressive folk, classical music, country music, noise and more. He uses an array of effects, including delay, distortion, reverb, octave shifters and volume pedals to create unique textures.

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