Guitar in the Space Age!
Bill Frisell - electric guitar
Greg Leisz - pedal steel, electric guitar
Tony Scherr - bass, acoustic guitar on Rebel Rouser
Kenny Wollesen - drums, percussion, vibes
Produced by Lee Townsend
Recording Engineer: Tucker Martine
Mixing Engineer: Adam Muñoz
Mastering Engineer: Greg Calbi
Assistant Engineer at Flora: Michael Finn
Production Assistance: Adam Blomberg
Recorded at Flora Recording & Playback, Portland, OR
Mixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York
Art direction, design and photography: Paul Moore (StudioMoore.com)
Jazz Breakfast / Peter Bacon - published October 9th, 2014
I can’t remember if Frisell has ever covered Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man, but when it comes to the sound of that “jingle-jangle morning” Bill’s the out-and-out guv’nor.
This album of ’60s guitar music includes Turn, Turn, Turn, written by Pete Seeger but made famous in all its Rickenbacker 12-string glory by The Byrds, Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys centrepiece, Surfer Girl, and Ray Davies’ Kinks klassic Tired Of Waiting For You, along with such surf twang guitar lode stones as Pipeline and Telstar. Add Link Wray’s Rumble, Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser and Lee Hazlewood’s Baja and a couple of sympathetic Frisell originals and you get the picture.
The band is the simple two guitars, bass and drums format beloved of rock bands since the time when Fender and Gibson first stalked the earth, although having Greg Leisz as second guitarist has the extra-twang bonus of pedal steel guitar as well. Tony Scherr is the bassist and Kenny Wollesen is on drums. Have two guitars, bass and drums ever sounded quite this good?
Before going any further I urge you to do as I did and play this music over a proper hi-fi (yes, I know we’re all adults here so I am preaching to the converted, but even among such as ourselves there can be the modern temptation to download a pissy MP3 and listen to it over computer speakers or on an i-Pod). Resist this life-style chic laziness! Guitar In The Space Age is a fabulous sounding album and it should be played with some decent wattage through some good-sized speakers. And turn it up, too. Let it fill the room! Let the whole street ring to its retro-glories!
Frisell has turned playing the tune into an art form – he never does it the same way twice, and he pulls further riches from an apparently simple chord structure each time around. Right from the opening, resonating chord, Pipeline has never sounded this lush, or this interesting. And there is a point in Turn, Turn, Turn when celebratory is elevated to euphoric, helped in great part by the spirited drumming of Wollesen. There is so much joy in this track I couldn’t quite believe it only lasted two minutes and 40 seconds. Wah-Wah articulation sits against wiry picking in Mel London’s Messin’ With The Kid, and dreamy pedal steel suits Surfer Girl a polka-dot treat.
I won’t go on, because Bill explains perfectly in this video the mix of innocent Space Age optimism and strange Cold War fear that existed when he was growing up and the way in which this music seemed to both embody the former and soothe the latter. Suffice to say Guitar In The Space Age is a joyful triumph.
For the original article clice HERE
Audiophilia / by Karl Sigman – published on January 26th, 2015
Bill Frisell: Guitar as Vocals
The American guitarist Bill Frisell has been a favorite guitarist (and musician and composer)of mine for many years, but something very recent in his repertoire from his newest album ‘Guitar in the Space Age’ (2014) tweaked my imagination and led me to realize something special about him that I had never given any thought to before: His talent for taking a classic American hit (pop/folk/etc.) from the late 1940s, 1950s or 1960s and replacing its vocals/lyrics with his extraordinary jazz improvisational guitar playing. Guitar as vocals. The track in question ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, with its rich history going back to the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger who, in 1955, used lines from Ecclesiastes as lyrics.
This is not a new idea in general for jazz musicians. Frisell, however, is unique in his way of doing such things for several reasons. He is not trying to be controversial, he does his versions using classic ‘Americana’ as his specialty (mainly taken from acoustic folk/country music), and his guitar-playing style is deceptively simple in the way he strips things to their bare essentials while conveying the emotional content and complexity of the music. Also, he adds a kind, gentle aroma as a unique embellishment. He is also one of the first to use jazz guitar as a solo instrument; analogous to the way that (say) the saxophone evolved. Frisell uses chromatic improvisation and does it uniquely. As such, his playing is easily recognizable.
Sometimes Frisell’s renditions sound mysterious — haunting and beautiful all at the same time. Check out (one of mypersonal favorites) ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ from Track 1 of Frisell’s live (2004) album ‘East West’—play it loud on a good stereo system and wander around your abode to get the full effect; the guitar eerily follows you around.
As my high-school friend and jazz guitarist Chris Hunt succinctly told me, ‘Songs are vehicles for improvisation. As an improviser, Frisell does not limit himself to the standard jazz repertoire but mines the American country, pop, rock’n roll, soul and gospel catalogues as well.’ He further said, ‘Likewise, Frisell does not limit himself to a traditional jazz guitar sound, but incorporates steel string, banjo, and the full spectrum of American electric guitar sounds, often accompanied by his signature guitar loops. Although he is a great jazz guitarist by any measure, the term seems too restrictive. I prefer to think of him as a consummate improviser.’
What Frisell does not do (it is not his intention) is to make a rendition of a song that becomes a major ‘hit’ on the charts, the way that (say) ‘Red Red Wine’ by Neil Diamond in 1968 was made tremendously successful by UB40 in 1983 as a reggae song on their album ‘Labour of Love’. It was the very cool 1965 pop version of ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ by the Byrds that shot up to the stars in the charts. But let us not forget the outstanding folk version by Judy Collins in between (1963); lovely it is; the last track from the ‘Judy Collins 3’ album.
Other choice examples of Frisell include: ‘I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry’ originally by Hank Williams (1949). Frisell does a georgous solo version of that using acoustic guitar as Track 7 on the album ‘Ghost Town’ (2000). (It had been re-done previously by Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash, among others.) As in the original, it is meant to deeply express one’s personal loneliness, and although more gentle in spirit, it is like the original (and unlike the original Neil Diamond’s ‘Red Red Wine’) in that it conveys the fact that wine won’t do to smother your woes! Something harder is needed: Bourbon perhaps–and a lot of it!
On that same album, as Track 11, he does a version of the jazz classic/standard ‘When I Fall In Love’ which goes back to 1952 and was sung by people such as Nat King Cole, and even Doris Day. Frisell’s version uses a 6-string banjo tuned like a guitar, and it has an exotic complexity that I can’t articulate in words.
Back to ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’. Pete Seeger died recently (2014) at the age of 94, and even though I never was a great fan of his voice, I feel obligated to honor/respect him (great song writer, musician/poet and bold in his political risk taking) by pointing out the original lines from the Ecclesiastes, and then his own version that he set to music:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time of love, a time of hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
It’s an American classic and Bill Frisell has done it justice. Frisell is an American treasure.
Click HERE for the original article
Premiere Guitar / by Michael Ross – December 2014 issue
It’s easy to forget how astonishing Bill Frisell’s guitar style seemed when he arrived on the scene nearly four decades ago. Others had combined blues, country, or rock with jazz, but no one had yet synthesized them all—along with free improvisation, noise, and looping—into such a uniquely personal sound. Frisell is one of a select handful of post-Hendrix electric guitarists to completely redefine the instrument.
After having recorded more than 50 albums, either as a leader or with others, it’s understandable that an artist might want to look back, and Guitar in the Space Age is something of a musical memoir. Along with bassist Tony Scherr, drummer Kenny Wollesen, and Greg Leisz on guitar and pedal steel, the Denver-raised guitarist reworks some of the tunes that formed his musical DNA, and pays tribute to others that comprise the genetic makeup of any picker.
Eschewing obscurities for classics, Frisell and company place their stamp on such instrumental chestnuts as Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser,” Link Wray’s “Rumble,” The Chantays’ “Pipeline,” and “Telstar” by the Tornados. They also assay “Bryant’s Boogie” by Tele-master Jimmy Bryant and pedal steel virtuoso Speedy West. In fact, Frisell and Leisz could be considered a post-modern version of that dynamic duo. With the help of his unmistakable musical voice and a few pedals, Frisell brings the sound of Guitar in the Space Age into the digital era.
For the full article click HERE
Vintage Guitar Magazine / by Dan Forte - December 2014 issue
Bill Frisell’s catholic tastes, matched by his versatility, have found him interpreting the music of Bob Dylan, Charles Ives, Muddy Waters, Aaron Copeland, Sonny Rollins, John Hiatt, John Phillip Sousa, and Madonna – and that’s just one album (1993’s Have A Little Faith). Years earlier, the New York Times said his debut as a leader “shows how many styles he’s ready to warp.”
Beginning with 1982’s In Line, the guitarist’s more than 40 albums as a leader cross-pollinate jazz with folk, rock, blues, country, Americana, electronica, classical, and world music – with nods to Nashville, the music of John Lennon (on All We Are Saying), and the films of Buster Keaton. In filmmaker Emma Franz’s forthcoming documentary on Frisell (which includes interviews with Jim Hall, Ron Carter, McCoy Tyner, Paul Simon, Lucinda Williams, Nels Cline, Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, and John Abercrombie), Bonnie Raitt says, “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.” When Frisell guested on Jim Hall’s 1995 album, Dialogues, his former teacher penned “Frisell Frazzle” for the occasion. “It was supposed to be a bit unexpected, which is how I hear Bill’s playing,” said Hall. “His playing is always fresh, and I never know what’s going to come out.”
See the full feature in the December 2014 issue.
Sound of 2014: Juan Rodriguez's top picks, from Bill Frisell to The Bad Plus- Published December 30th, 2014
It surprised me that a hefty proportion of my top recorded jazz picks for 2014 included music that many do not consider jazz, or even rock, for that matter.
Consider mild-mannered, poll-winning guitarist Bill Frisell, who finds himself the subject of yet another brouhaha about “purity”, the likes of which too often afflict the jazz world. He released the unspeakable – a rock ‘n’ roll album (ironically titled Guitar in the Space Age, on the Okeh label) reaching back to his 1960s influences, including surfing music, by Duane Eddy, The Chantays, Link Wray and The Beach Boys. Horrors! Critics have lambasted him for nostalgia-mongering. Little wonder, after opening with a sublime seven-minute version of Pipeline, an archetypal surf tune, he follows with a short by-rote Byrds version of Turn! Turn! Turn! with its telling line, “To everything there is a season.”
Atlantic writer David A. Graham chastised Guitar as “not very adventurous. Perhaps unavoidably for a set so heavily geared to surf tunes, it also feels awfully white. … The man can have his nostalgia, but please: Make some weird, jarring music sometime soon, too.” (Actually, Frisell did, early in 2014 with Silent Comedy, an anything-goes blast of scronch recorded in two hours at John Zorn’s studio.)
“Does it help to know that I was born in 1951,” Frisell slyly asked at Jazz at Lincoln Center recently.
“I hope people don’t think this is a joke or nostalgia. It first comes from loving this music … “ He doesn’t like hierarchies – simple folk to dense classical – “as though one music is higher or lower or more difficult than another. It’s all difficult. It’s all beautiful. It’s all one thing.”
Since the mid-1980s, when he was Zorn’s house guitarist, Frisell’s career has cruised through a huge swath of American genres. His genius is that he extends each style with both humility and adventure yet always sounds like himself. Guitar in the Space Age continues the journey with a light but thoughtful touch, and staying power.
The original article HERE
The Abso!ute Sound / Bill Milkowski - published December 10th, 2014
The Space Age officially began in 1957 with Sputnik and reached its peak with the Apollo program from 1961-1972. During that span a lot of guitar music went down that was eagerly absorbed by baby boomers, including Frisell, who reflects back on that period with fondness in this nostalgic collection of classic six-string tunes. Joined by kindred spirit Greg Leisz on pedal steel and his longtime rhythm tandem of bassist Tony Scherr and drummer-vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, Frisell delivers personalized takes on such early 60s instrumental staples as the Chantays’ “Pipeline,” Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser,” and Link Wray’s powerchording showpiece, “Rumble.” With Leisz and Frisell forming a two-guitar frontline, the musicians recreate a suitably twangy Byrds-ian cover of Pete Seeger’s “Turn Turn Turn” while Leisz’s pedal steel provides a dreamy effect on their soothing cover of “Surfer Girl.” They also turn in a swinging rendition of the Jimmy Bryant-Speedy West tune “Bryant’s Boogie” while covering Merle Travis’ country guitar showcase “Cannonball Rag” and the Astronauts’ 1963 surf guitar hit “Baja.” Included are three originals in the delicate chamber piece “The Shortest Day,” the spacey “Reflections from the Moon” (with allusions to Dark Side of the Moon), and the spacious “Lift Off.”
JazzTimes Editors Pick / by Mike Joyce - published December, 2014
Guitar In The Space Age! marks giant steps backward and forward in time for guitarist Bill Frisell. On one hand, it’s a celebration of the improbable rise of the electric guitar–particularly the models made by Fender–during the ’50s and ‘60s. But more important, it represents a terrific leap of imagination, offering fresh takes on signature guitar sounds that still resonate throughout pop culture.
Frisell owes much of his success to an inquisitive nature. After all, it’s led him through a maze of intriguing passageways in jazz, folk, country and film music. But being born at the right time and place has distinct advantages too. Here, Frisell and longtime collaborator Greg Leisz rely on collective memory to chart a path that will likely delight and surprise fellow boomers who otherwise have little interest in retro excursions. That’s largely because Frisell and Leisz, who plays guitar and pedal steel on this session, are so well matched. Whether crafting harmonies, trading lead roles, deploying effects, nimbly improvising or subtly capturing the melodic allure of “Surfer Girl” and “Tired of Waiting for You,” the guitarists clearly share a creative wavelength. Both are also adept at evoking the telling handiwork of their guitar heroes. The open-string, diving decent on Link Wray’s “Rumble,” the alternate bass string propulsion on Merle Travis’ “Cannonball Rag” and the atmospherics of “Telstar” are prime examples. Familiar riffs and refrains, though, eventually give way to colorful, cliché-free arrangements, shrewdly accented and animated by bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen. – Mike Joyce
Elmore Magazine / by Kevin Korber - December 2nd, 2014
When I was offered the chance to review master guitarist Bill Frisell’s latest release I was anxious for the opportunity. Before receiving the album, I had only the title to contemplate: Guitar in the Space Age. I thought someone in the promotional department at Okeh Records had an especially bad idea. Guitar? In the space age? Didn’t they know the space age came and went in the early ‘60s? Then I received the album and all became clear.
Mr. Frisell, now 63, came of age during these formative years when rock ‘n’ roll and electric guitar were beginning their conquest of the world, if not of outer space. This album is evenly divided between covers of tunes from the early ‘60s and original compositions. It is a flawless foray into some of the great timeless recordings of the age and new tunes in homage to the age.
Mr. Frisell opens the set with a cover of the Chantays’ classic instrumental “Pipeline”. He captures it perfectly then moves on into one of the definitive recordings of the age, the Byrds’ “Turn Turn Turn”. Once again he retains the power of the original while crafting it into something new and refreshing. He goes on to offer a number of originals, a superb cover of the Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting for You” and closes with the immortal Tornados’ anthem “Telstar”. Of special note is the fourth track, a cover of the very first record Mr. Frisell ever bought, the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl”. Listen to it; mere words are inadequate praise.
This album is clearly autobiographical and close to this great guitarist’s heart. Chuck Berry once wrote “I got no kick against modern jazz / Unless you try to play it too darn fast / And change the beauty of the melody.” Bill Frisell never once loses that beauty.
Vintage Guitar / by John Heidt - published in February, 2015
It’s almost impossible to pigeonhole Bill Frisell, and his latest album will make it even harder.
The guitarist and his band reinterpret some of the pop and rock songs here that made Frisell and the other string-bender in his band, Greg Leisz, take up their instruments in the first place. And while the album will no doubt have critics saying it’s not jazz and asking why these songs need a redo, the 12 covers and two Frisell originals create a magnificent journey for the listener.
It’s evident from the first cut – a reworking of the Chantays’ hit “Pipeline” – that this is not just a cover album. Nor is it merely an exercise in nostalgia. The band never loses the feel of the original, yet adds sophisticated guitar parts and pushes the familiar song to seven minutes.
“Pipeline” sets the stage for the record in a couple of ways. The interplay between Frisell and Leisz is brilliant, with harmony parts that seem spontaneous and planned all at the same time. And, it’s one of several songs with surf roots on the record. When you hear this song, “Baja,” and “Telstar” in the hands of these skilled musicians it’s a reminder that this kind of music is honest and beautiful, as opposed to the cliché it has often become.
There’s a lot of ground covered by Frisell and band. A version of the Byrd’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” stays fairly close to the original with droll interplay from the two guitarists.
Frisell pulls out a wah pedal for a laidback version of the Junior Wells-Buddy Guy blues classic “Messin’ With The Kid.” This version simmers more than burns, and whether that’s good or bad will depend on the individual listener.
The Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl” is one of many highlights. Frisell handles the gorgeous melody while Leisz plays pedal steel that seems beautifully to recreate the harmony vocals of the original recording.
“Cannonball Rag” and “Bryant’s Boogie” hint at the country influences that have sneaked into Frisell’s music in the past 20 years.
The song that wanders the farthest from the original is a version of the Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You.” After the familiar melody, the band gets psychedelic with the guitarists feeding off each other and bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wolleson leading them to other spheres.
While seemingly simple, every time you hear Guitar In The Space Age! you’re rewarded with more guitar and musical gold. – John Heidt
Jazz Times / by Evan Haga 6/13/14
“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.
Because the repertoire was so familiar, you couldn’t help but think of the original arrangements, and then of how Frisell and company were artfully remaking them: turning streamlined melodies into polyphony on the frontline, reinventing standard backbeats with swing and groove and space. Even the action onstage dipped in the direction of a communicative jazz band, with Frisell facing and lurching toward his rhythm section. (It’s a kind of anti-showmanship that works better in the Village Vanguard than in a concert hall, and Frisell owned up to that fact with a joke: “I hope you don’t mind looking at my rear end.”)
Frisell is a melodist first and foremost, and a lot about this set was strikingly beautiful. Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” skewed harder toward Nashville than the Byrds did; the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” made you wonder why the Lennon-McCartney book has become standard jazz source material but Brian Wilson’s songs have not; and Frisell’s “Shortest Day” offered the sort of bittersweet earworm motif you want to hear again as soon as it ends.
This program and its related album, to be released in October, made plainer than usual the idea that Frisell is a guitar fanatic but doesn’t subscribe to the many tropes that plague the instrument. He clearly relishes the electric guitar as a marvel of American technology. He used his trusted combination of Fender Telecaster-style ax, Fender tube combo amp and delay and looping effects to achieve his melancholy, art-house version of surf and vintage Nashville tone. But his take on this chopsy repertoire—Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West; surf instrumentals, with their emphasis on rapid-fire picking—was expectedly genteel. He focused on sonics, the liquid give-and-take between himself and Leisz, and his savvy negotiation of harmonic and rhythmic contours. (You could say the same for his jazz playing, but jazz guitar has more forebears who placed elegance above technical flash.)
You could easily accuse Frisell of being too precious with this material. Why let Junior Wells’ “Messin’ With the Kid” simmer and not burn? But there are so many other places to go for that. And to his credit, Leisz picked up the slack for conventional guitar heroism, countering Frisell’s inclination to, as Ron Carter would put it, “play clouds.”
Another real achievement here had to do with the handling of instrumental surf music, a midcentury phenomenon that deflated with the arrival of the Beatles. Its influence on popular music is incalculable—it expanded pop’s sonic language toward psychedelia and set new standards for virtuosity in rock ’n’ roll—but its legacy is one of kitsch and cult devotion. (Most of the great surf revival acts of the past 30 years have relied on a very good visual gimmick.) Frisell made surf music a plainclothes proposition, taking on genre standards like “Pipeline” in a way that restored their seriousness; these were and are compositions full of shadowy feeling and immaculate tunefulness. Wollesen’s secondary work on vibraphone, which he employed during atmospheric rubato introductions, further captured the intelligence and noir cool of first-generation surf, lounge and exotic.
Bill Frisell takes his music in a new direction on his forthcoming album, Guitar In The Space Age!. Set for October 7 release via OKeh Records on the new album the innovative, exhilarating guitarist explores the music of his youth along with steady collaborators, Greg Leisz (pedal steel & electric guitar), Tony Scherr (acoustic and electric bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums and vibraphone). Frisell explains, “Growing up as a kid in the early ‘60s, it seemed as if anything was possible—the future was going to be so great.But at the same time there was a serious sense of fear: the Cold War, duck and cover, the civil rights struggle—Vietnam was on the way. So while there was something really liberating and empowering about coming of age during that time, there was also a lot of darkness—it just had to leave a mark on you.” This is the material that he explores on Guitar In The Space Age! which focuses on unique arrangements of covers from his formative years, complemented by two original compositions. Click HERE for an external link of the Premiere
This is an old-school electric guitar fan’s album, played by one of the most creative guitar fans in the world. Bill Frisell is a lifelong lover of the quintessentially American invention, drawing on everything from Charlie Christian swing through 50s tremolo twangs to cutting-edge pedal technology. But it’s also a fine display of bluegrass and rock-inspired contemporary music, in which Frisell’s intelligent, jazz-informed sensibility is applied to 1950s and 60s classics by Duane Eddy, the Beach Boys, the Kinks and more. On a casual listen, he might seem to be treating the Chantays’ Pipeline or the Junior Wells blues Messin’ With the Kid as if he’s still a teenage guitar prodigy who has just excitedly learned them off the singles – but in fact this is as serious, witty, layered and subtle as any of his more abstract work. Check out a rapturously tender Surfer Girl, a delicately spacey Tired of Waiting for You – and Kenny Wollesen’s deep, casually flappy percussion, which elegantly counterbalances the metallic clangs all the way through. Click HERE for the original review.
Austin 360 / Patrick Beach
Put an artist like Bill Frisell in a room like the Continental Club and there's bound to be an outbreak of magic. The versatile guitar virtuoso in that intimate space? If you're in Austin and not occupying a hospital bed and this guy is in town and you don't go? Hmm, how to put? You. Are. Just. Dumb.
Saturday, the second of two nights at the CC ahead of a Tuesday night gig when Frisell and band will be slumming at Lincoln Center, was something else entirely. It was certainly the loudest and rockingest set I've ever seen him unpack at the Continental, in part because it contained possible selections from his upcoming album, "Guitar in the Space Age!," a celebration of the early pop and surf music on which he cut his musical teeth before he tumbled into Miles and Monk and became, to use an incredibly reductive term for such an expansive and expressive player, a jazz musician. (The record is also reportedly a nod to the 60th anniversary of the Fender Telecaster. Frisell, in a fit of contrarianism or maybe just open-mindedness, instead played a Collings, built just a few miles west of downtown.)
"I've played more than 50 years and I've never really played this stuff," Frisell said earlier in the day in an interview as local Tele master Redd Volkaert played a Saturday matinee. "I'm learning so much. I just got old enough I realized I really love this stuff."
With the estimable Greg Leisz on pedal steel and guitar, the quartet made the Beach Boys' "In My Room" sound like a hymn, which it kind of is anyway, and Leisz and Frisell were in full Vulcan mind meld mode, thinking a bar or two ahead of one another, paraphrasing one another or offering counterpoints.
Frisell's known for his love of the pedalboard, with which he explores dreamlike textures in a style that's tentative and considered, which is exactly the way he talks. (Not that he said a word from the stage Saturday, which was fine.) That and his musical restlessness make for something much more than jazz, which is as it should be because if you're Bill Frisell, Guitar Virtuoso, you should be able to play anything you want and to see the world of song as one big, chapterless book that invites surprising and serendipitous connections. One of those happened during Duane Eddy's rockabilly instrumental, "Rebel Rouser," which at one point my wife noted sounded like it was becoming "I'll Fly Away." And I thought, That's this guy's whole point.
It was a slow build of a set, with "Pipeline" as the peak. The Chantays classic has been covered by everybody from Agent Orange to Stevie Ray Vaughan, but Frisell made it sound as original as if he'd written it over a latte at Jo's across the street as SoCo tourists puzzled over where the guide book said Mighty Cone was supposed to be but wasn't. They encored with the Beach Boys' "Surfer Girl, which felt like a recessional, which it kind of already is.
In the interview, Frisell said he keeps coming back to the Continental simply because he loves playing there. He first came to Texas, and Austin, he said, in 1993.
"It was another world, he said. "I wasn't the typical thing they have here. And Steve (Wertheimer, the club's owner) kept having me back and making me feel welcome."
He's welcome anytime.
Guitar World / Brian Robbins - published October 16th, 2014
(Interview with Bill Frisell and Brian Robbins)
"To you I shall put an end, then you'll never hear surf music again." — Jimi Hendrix, “Third Stone From The Sun”
Oh, Jimi … you would’ve loved this. Surf music? I’ll say! Straight from the valleys of Neptune.
With Guitar In The Space Age!, Bill Frisell and his talented friends (drummer Kenny Wolleson, bassist Tony Scherr and fellow string wizard Greg Leisz) turn the collars up on their pressurized black leather space suits and head back to the future.
The controls are set for the tunes of Frisell’s youth; the quartet’s sonic filters process the music and turn it into something very familiar and very new. As soft-spoken as Frisell is in conversation, he’s some kind of fearless adventurer with a guitar in his hands.
There’s funked-up blues (“Messin’ with the Kid”), there’s Brylcreemed sneer (“Rumble”), there’s classic twangorama (“Rebel Rouser”) and happy burble (“Cannonball Rag”). But as recognizable as it all is, there’s plenty of new ground broken as well.
Consider the band’s take on the Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting for You”; the original melody is offered up gently and wistfully … slightly psychedelicized, but straight enough for church. And then things begin to get a little glazey-eyed about three-and-a-half minutes in, wandering way off into the field of flowers as Wolleson and Scherr slo-roll-and-tumble their way along and Frisell and Leisz explore the inner soul of a tie-dyed raga.
Sure, you’ve heard “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Surfer Girl” and “Telstar” before, but you’ve never heard them quite like this. Amongst the classics are two newly penned Frisell originals — “The Shortest Day” and “Liftoff” — totally kindred spirits.
And you know what the coolest thing of all might be? Frisell covers all this wild-ass sonic territory with a very humble and familiar vehicle … but I’ll let him tell you about it.
GUITAR WORLD: I’m pretty sure I already know the answer to this, but I want to hear the story from you. Folks might listen to this album and expect that you used an arsenal of guitars for all the ground you cover, but …
Yeah … [laughs] I ended up playing just one guitar for the whole thing. It's a Telecaster made by J.W. Black. I can't remember if I’ve told you about him before, but I met him a long time ago. He used to work for Roger Sadowsky in New York back in the Eighties, before moving out to California. He was around in the early days of the Fender Custom Shop … one of the first guys who made those relic guitars, you know? J.’s incredible … his knowledge of Fender stuff is outrageous. He’s restored many, many Fifties and Sixties vintage guitars, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who knows them inside and out the way he does.
When he puts something together, it's like you’re getting to play one of those real old guitars … but everything is working right. [laughter]
J only builds for customers in Japan these days, but I’m very fortunate to have a few guitars he’s put together. The Tele I used on this album is special because it has a Bigsby vibrato on it, which is so great for this kind of music. And it has a bridge that’s made by a guy named John Woodland.
Oh, Woody. The Mastery bridge, right?
You know about them?
I put a Mastery bridge on my Esquire last year after you mentioned it to me.
Oh, cool! [laughs] I’d forgotten we’d talked about it.
It was the same thing; it seemed like the perfect bridge to try after I installed a Bigsby.
Yeah, exactly. Woody makes a Tele bridge with the Mastery saddles on it that’s open in the back so it works with the Bigsby. It’s great.
How about pickups?
Those came from a guy named Jeff Callahan in Eureka, California — Callahan Pickups. He was another guy J. hooked me up with. I’m really liking Jeff’s pickups. I have them in this Tele, and I have some in a Strat, too.
That came from this super-luxurious situation … [laughs] I went to J. Black’s place, and he had this guitar set up so I could switch out the pickups. He’d made it so that he could just slide the pickguards in and out. I tried about eight different Strat pickups that day. It was a total blind test. I didn't know what I was listening to or anything … just a couple hours of going back and forth and trying to figure out which ones I liked. The Callahan pickups just stood out like crazy.
You know … J., Woody, Jeff … I’m so lucky to know people like that.
How about amps on this album?
I had this one amp that I really like. It’s an old Gibson … oh, boy … I think it's called an Explorer. It’s real low power and one 10-inch speaker. I used that and a Carr Mercury that was in the studio. That was the thing: we recorded it in Portland, Oregon. Usually I can't even use my own amps and stuff.
You were home, then … almost. [Bill lives in Seattle.]
Yeah, almost. [laughs] It was weird, because usually it would be, “Now’s my chance,” you know — fill my car with guitars. But this time I ended up with just that Tele.
I love it. I’m a longtime champion of the versatility of the Telecaster and the Esquire … both of which are often labeled as limited in their sound.
And Greg was on a beautiful old Jazzmaster?
Yeah, he played that through the whole thing, along with pedal steel on some stuff. He played a 12-string on one song … I’m trying to think …
Oh, Lord, it had to be “Turn, Turn, Turn,” didn't it?
Yeah, just a little part in there.
Before I heard it for the first time, I wondered what the guitar voice would be on that song. The obvious was a take on Roger McGuinn’s 12-string Rick jangle, but you had very little of that.
There’s not many overdubs on the record; 99 percent of what you hear is just the four of us playing, but Greg did overdub the 12-string in a few places. It’s the only part of the record that was done in the computer age. [laughter] Some of what you hear on “Turn, Turn, Turn," though, is just our two guitars — his Jazzmaster and my Tele together.
Undoubtedly you’ve burrowed into some of these songs over the years, but were there ones that you’d never actually played before?
That was part of the thing about it: when I think back to when I first heard that music, I think, “Wait a minute. Between, say, 1963 and 1968 — a five-year period — the amount of music I was moving through and moving past … wow.” [laughs] I mean, like, going from the Ventures to Miles Davis in five years … there’s no way I could play all of those songs.
I kind of played some of it, but I had barely figured out how to push down the strings and then I’d be moving onto something else … push it away and move on to the next thing … really quickly.
So now it’s like, “Oh, wait a minute — I want to look harder at this stuff that got me going in the beginning.” Like “Pipeline” … or “Baha” by the Astronauts? Those were songs that got me super fired up about the guitar way, way back — and I could never play them then.
Now I’m trying to play “Baha,” going “Whoa, whoa, wait a second … this is a lot harder than I thought it was.” That happened with a lot of these songs.
When I did the John Lennon album, that was another revelation: “Wait a minute … I don't know these songs at all.” There’s all kinds of stuff in there that you start uncovering and, man …
I think that’s the same thing with, say, Duane Eddy’s playing. You listen to “Rebel Rouser” and, on the surface, I think some folks think it’s relatively simple. But it's the tone and phrasing … not a million-notes-a-minute.
Yeah, there’s so much more than just whatever the notes are. And we didn't even do “Rebel Rouser” the way Duane Eddy does it; he’s changing keys every time through and we didn't do that. [laughs] That would’ve made it way harder. [laughter]
There’s so much in this music. For me, it just keeps on going and going and going …
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All About Jazz / Di Vincenzo Roggero - October 21st, 2014
With Guitar in the Space Age! continues the journey of rediscovery of American music of the last century by the indefatigable Bill Frisell. This time it's up to the heroes of the electric guitar that lay down the law in the decades after the war between the second and the fabulous sixties, the era of the early space travel and the student protests, the economic boom and the war in Vietnam, racial and claims. .. the birth of the Fender Telecaster.
But far from the valence charge of socio-political and militant, that undertaken by Frisell is an operation that travels on the rails of nostalgia. The impression is that the guitarist of Baltimore merely dusting off the family silver to bring them back to their original splendor and display them proudly to friends and family. Someone is slightly changed the layout, someone else is touched up a few pieces worn by time but basically everything remains unchanged and ready to be put back in the drawer.
Of course the usual lightness and sensitivity in dealing with the compositions of others remains unchanged, the plots with the steel guitar Greg Leisz are at times intriguing, the battery of Kenny Wollesen and Tony Scherr on bass are a guarantee but it all tends to sound (unintentionally, we're sure) as an exercise in style, in which the true emotions are sip, and the memories of an era struggling to take shape and texture. Several pieces slip away too quickly, and not enough the sparkling "Turn, Turn, Turn," the epic "Tired of Waiting for You" by the great ray Davies, or the dreamy "Surfer Girl" to place this work among the things successful Frisell.
Track Listing: Pipeline; Turn, Turn, Turn; Messin 'with the Kid; Surfer Girl; Rumble; The Shortest Day; Rebel Rouser; Baja; Cannonball Rag; Tired of Waiting for You; Reflection from the Moon; Bryant's Boogie; Lift Off; Telstar.
Click HERE for the outside Italian link of the original article.