36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022

Bill Frisell - Music For Strings


Bill Frisell - g
Jenny Scheinman - vl
Eyvind Kang - vla
Hank Roberts – vlo

Bill Frisell, one of the world’s most ingenious and resourceful guitarists, comes to the Festival with his devoted artistic partners. The band is known as 858 Quartet. Its string players just happen to be superb musical chameleons up to every change of gears and genre the guitarist’s catch-all music throws at them.

Cellist Hank Roberts was a member of Frisell’s first quartet that reached stardom in the guitarist’s New York period. In addition to many other recordings, violinist Jenny Scheinman along with musicians from Brazil, Greece and Mali sided Bill Frisell in Grammy nominated (2003) The Intercontinentals and All We Are Saying (2011) dedicated to John Lennon. Violist Eyvind Kang was a member of trio, which recorded Beautiful Dreamers (2009).

The three string players worked in Frisell’s Grammy Award winning (2005) Unspeakable and Grammy nominated (2009) History, Mystery.

After release of Sign of Life (2011), Jazzwise noted that “the 858 Quartet is among Frisell’s most satisfying yet least recorded groups. They play endlessly varied, gloriously inventive music ... Most of all, it’s music retains that classic Frisell feel of melancholic optimism... and in its humility and generosity stands prouder than music that swaggers and brags.”

Stylistically, Frisell’s music is difficult to tag. “It swings in places, and there’s some fiery improvisation. But after decades of trodding such a brave and singular path, maybe Frisell deserves his own genre. How about ‘friz’?” quipped Financial Times.

Vilnius Jazz will serve as the setting for the Quartet’s summary of their long path – from Unspeakable, Richter 858, History, Mystery to Big Sur (2013) and other projects, enriched with adventures specially devised for the occasion.

It is often said, that Bill Frisell (real name William Richard) “plays the guitar like Miles Davis played the trumpet: in the hands of such radical thinkers, their instruments simply become different animals. And, like Davis, Frisell loves to have a lot of legroom when he improvises – the space that terrifies others quickens his blood.” Frisell, as Jazz Times once observed, “has an airbrushed attack, a stunning timbral palette and a seemingly innate inability to produce a gratuitous note.”

“For me, it’s really important to keep the melody going all the time, whether you are actually playing it or not. […] A lot of people play the melody and rush right into their solo, almost with an attitude of ‘Whew – that’s out of the way, now let’s really play!’. And I like to keep that melody going” said Frisell to Guitar Player.

He is praised not only as guitar genius, but also as an outstanding composer, capable of fusing seemingly incompatible genres, searching for inspiration in folklore, academic music, rock, jazz, blues, noise and other music trends, inserting his improvisations in the most unexpected contexts.

“When I write something, it just sort of comes out. […] It just happens, then I usually think about what must have influenced it later. When I sit down to write something in a certain style, it doesn’t work. I don’t know if that’s important or something I need to do, or if it doesn’t matter. I don’t care; I’m just thankful something comes out sometimes” admitted the guitarist to Down Beat. He considers his teaches to be Paul Motian, Thelonious Monk, Aaron Copland, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis.

Whatever music Frisell plays, he does that with undisguised joy. “I like to have fun when I play and I like comedy – but it’s not a conscious thing. I’m basically a pretty shy person and I don’t dance or get into fights. But there are all these things inside me that get out when I perform. It’s like a real world when I play, where I can do all the things I can’t do in real life” the musician confessed to The Village Voice.

After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado, Frisell went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. His major break came when guitarist Pat Metheny was unable to make a recording session, and recommended Frisell to Paul Motian, who was recording Psalm for ECM Records. Frisell became ECM’s in-house guitar player, and worked on several albums, most notably Jan Garbarek’s Paths.

In the 1980s, Frisell settled in the New York City area and was an active participant in the city’s music scene. He forged an early partnership with John Zorn, performed or recorded with many others. He also became known for his work in Motian’s trio.

He soon moved to Seattle, where beside his usual concert activities and recordings also branched out by performing soundtracks to silent films of Buster Keaton with his trio. These successful projects encouraged him to continue his creative endeavours in film industry. In collaboration with Bono and Brian Eno the guitarist recorded the soundtrack for Wim Wenders’ film Million Dollar Hotel. He is also a featured player on the soundtrack for Walk the Line, the biographical motion picture about Johnny Cash. He also wrote and recorded soundtracks for several films and radio series.

Between 2003 and 2005 Frisell acted as musical director for Century of Song, a series of concerts at the German arts festival RuhrTriennale. Since 2000, he has resided in Bainbridge Iceland next to Seattle.

Over the years, the guitarist has contributed to the work of such collaborators as Dave Jones, Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Elvis Costello, Kenny Wheeler, Ginger Baker, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, Kenny Wollesen, Lee Jones, Marianne Faithful, John Scofield, Vernon Reid, Julius Hemphill, Paul Bley, Wayne Horvitz, David Sanborn, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Frankfurt Ballet.

Bill Frisell - Disfarmer from brian bruemmer on Vimeo.

Singer, violin player, composer and arranger Jenny Scheinman grew up in a family of folk musicians in Northern California and has been performing since she was a teenager. She studied at Oberlin Conservatory, graduated with a degree in English literature from the University of California in Berkeley. She has been voted the #1 Rising Star in the Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll and has been listed as one of their Top Ten Overall Violinists for a decade.

She has toured and recorded with Bill Frisell, Bruce Cockburn, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Rodney Crowell, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Mark Ribot, garnered numerous high-profile arranging credits with Lucinda Williams, Bono, Metallica and other celebrities. She has eight CDs of original music to date.

Violist Eyvind Kang has worked extensively with Bill Frisell and Laurie Anderson, as well as written arrangements. His teachers have included legendary jazz violinist Michael White, Dr. N. Rajam and Dr. Hossein Omoumi. He has also released many acclaimed albums of original music.

Hank Roberts has created a unique and original voice on the cello through an extensive body of music as a performer, composer and recording artist. He has performed and recorded throughout the world with a host of celebrated musicians. Recorded 10 CD’s on the Munich based Winter and Winter label.

His album Green, featuring touring partners Jim Black and Marc Ducret, won the 2008 German Recording Critics Award in the Jazz category. 

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