The Cactus Cafe is bringing one of the world’s leading jazz guitarists, Bill Frisell, and the Big Sur Quintet to the Texas Union Ballroom this Sunday, March 8th, to examine the work of one of folk music’s preeminent figures: Woody Guthrie.
Frisell’s eclectic fountain of rock, country, progressive, jazz and blues music is well known in musician circles throughout the world. But Frisell is looking forward to his Austin gig.
“The first time I came to Austin was in the early ‘90s,” he shared. “I played at the Continental Club and that became, in a way, a home base for me. I’ve played there many, many, many times.”
As a leading jazz guitarists for forty years, this weekend’s Austin gig follows stops in Los Angles and Kansas City. “It’s a short little trip, but it’s a relatively new project,” Frisell said of his tour. His newest album, the Big Sur, was released in 2012 on Sony’s Okeh label.
“The music keeps evolving,” Frisell said when I asked him to talk about his newest release. “I’m not very good where you do the record and then you tour the record. I’ll do a record and by the time the record comes out, even with the same group, the music keeps changing and that’s definitely what has happened with this.”
A Constant Searching Thing
Those who come to see the show on Sunday will have a one of a kind experience because each gig is a little different. “So much of it depends on where you are and when you’re there, and making something out of that. It doesn’t make sense for me to play the same thing every night,” Frisell said. “With music, you’re always reaching out for something thats just a little bit beyond your grasp, a constant searching thing that’s happening that keeps it going and going.”
Frisell’s history with his fellow band members extends back decades. “While one can ‘check out the sound’ by listening to the Big Sur, these are guys I’ve played with for years and years…Oh my God, I met [cellist Hank] Roberts in 1975 in Boston…that’s forty years. It’s a dream band for me.”
Because of the bond he’s formed with the other musicians, Frisell said he can “take more and more chances. Anyone in the band can jump off into unknown territory at any time and everyone else is there to rescue them. It’s like jumping off a cliff. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but all your friends are around you. It’s an amazing feeling.”He personally enjoys exploring familiar melodies because while people think melodies are old, “you find the melody will become new, and there’s all sorts of side roads that come with them. It’s astonishing.”
From Cardboards Guitars to NPR
Frisell, whose earliest memory is building a cardboard guitar with rubber bands as an extremely young child, has always been fascinated with the instrument and what it can do. Now as an adult, his cross country playlist on shuffle would feature everything from a Debussy orchestra piece to a Bartok string quartet, to The Beatles and Tom Staples. “I totally love music,” he told me. “For me, there’s no reason why it can’t all co-exist.”
Frisell has several IMDB credits for soundtrack and composing. But his fans know him predominately for his electric, eclectic riffs and meandering on different melodies. For example, you can pick up an NPR Tiny Concert he did on The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man.”
The Austin concert on Sunday will be a play on the folk music of Woody Guthrie and “the progeny that sprung from Guthrie, such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and even Buffalo Springfield.” Audience members can expect to experience Frisell’s well known multitudinous effects from his guitar in wide-ranging interpretations of the American musical experience.
Perhaps a description from Rolling Stone several years ago sums up Bill Frisell best:
“Strange meetings of the mysterious and the earthy, the melancholy and the giddy, make perfect sense by Frisell’s deliciously warped way of thinking.”
Don’t miss Bill Frisell and The Big Sur Quintet, which includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts and drummer Rudy Royston.
When: Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 7 PM
Where: Texas Union Ballroom, upstairs from The Cactus Cafe at 2247 Guadalupe Street
Tickets: Cactus Cafe website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Are you attending Bill Frisell’s performance this weekend?