“So much came from my association with Mike... He went from being my hero to a friend, and he’s always been my teacher... I’ve always fantasized about doing something with him adapting some of my music.”
– Bill Frisell
As a dauntingly prolific artist, Bill Frisell has recorded in a vast array of settings, but he’s never made an album like ‘Play A Bill Frisell Set List’. Captured live in concert with the superb NDR Bigband, the guitarist delivers a tour de force performance on a program of ingenious arrangements designed specifically for him and the NDR by Michael Gibbs.
Recorded at the Überjazz Festival with the NDR Bigband on Oct 26, 2013, ‘Play A Bill Frisell Set List’ captures Frisell interacting with one of the world’s great jazz orchestras, exploring sleek, spacious, vividly expressive arrangements of compositions drawn from throughout his career. Gibbs didn’t plan the concert as a recording session, but after many years of trying to bring Frisell and the NDR together he felt the results were too good to keep under wraps. “Jeff Ballard playing drums for this concert was a dream, and the band really enjoyed playing it, so the music was magical,” Gibbs says. “I couldn’t resist the opportunity to release it.”
It’s difficult to overstate Gibbs’ impact on the trajectory of Frisell’s music and career. As a Denver teenager, Frisell convinced his father to take him to a touring Newport Jazz Festival show at Red Rocks in the summer of 1968 and the experience radically opened his ears. “It was an amazing program, with Gary Burton with Bob Moses, Coryell, and Steve Swallow, and they blew my brains out,” Frisell recalls. “I’d never heard anything like it. So I started getting those records, and there’s some guy named Mike Gibbs who wrote half the songs on these records. He had so much to do with that sound, making a world for that group to inhabit.”
Frisell started following Gibbs’ music, and was thrilled to discover that he was composer-in-residence at Berklee when he enrolled in 1975. He took all of the classes that Gibbs offered and was tremendously encouraged when Gibbs complimented his playing after catching Frisell’s group at a gig.
By 1978 Frisell had relocated to Belgium to focus on his music, which meant he was well placed to step in when Gibbs needed a guitarist for a tour of the UK. The group included the German bassist Eberhard Weber, with whom Frisell would play a duo at every concert. The connection he forged with the bassist on this tour led to Frisell’s participation on Weber’s 1979 album Fluid Rustle, the first of the dozens of recordings that Frisell would do on ECM as a sideman and leader, and where his career truly started!
‘Play A Bill Frisell Set List’ is Bill Frisell’s first-ever appearance as the featured soloist on a big band session, and with Gibbs’ melodically verdant, harmonically suggestive arrangements, he’s not likely to find a better set list than 'Set List'.
released June 9, 2015
A Bill Frisell Set List, performed by The NDR Bigband, arranged and conducted by Michael Gibbs, featuring guest performers Jeff Ballard (drums) and Bill Frisell (guitar).
1. Throughout (Bill Frisell) soloists: Bill Frisell (guitar), Christof Lauer (tenor sax) 8:28
2. Las Vegas Tango (Gil Evans) soloists: Vladyslav Sendecki (piano), Klaus Heidenreich (trombone), Bill Frisell (guitar) 7:12
3. Subconscious Lee (Lee Konitz) soloists: Bill Frisell (guitar), Christof Lauer (tenor sax), Jeff Ballard (drums) 8:27
4. On The Lookout/Far Away (Bill Frisell) soloist: Bill Frisell (guitar) 7:55
5. Misterioso (Thelonious Monk) duet: Bill Frisell (guitar), Jeff Ballard (drums) 5:21
6. Monica Jane (Bill Frisell) soloists: Fiete Felsch (alto sax), Bill Frisell (guitar) 7:06
7. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) soloists: Bill Frisell (guitar), Fiete Felsch (soprano sax) 7:52
8. Benny's Bugle (Benny Goodman/William Basie) soloists: Bill Frisell (guitar), Ingolf Burkhardt (trumpet), Jeff Ballard (drums) 5:17
9. Freddy's Step (Bill Frisell) soloists: Jeff Ballard (drums); Bill Frisell (guitar); Fiete Felsch, Lutz Büchner, Peter Bolte (alto saxes); Ingolf Burkhardt (trumpet) 3:31
Arranged and conducted by Michael Gibbs.
Jeff Ballard and Bill Frisell appear courtesy of OKeh Records/Sony Music Entertainment.
Licensed by Studio Hamburg Distribution & Marketing GmbH.
Recorded October 26, 2013 at the Überjazz Festival, Hamburg, Germany.
Bill Frisell guitar
Jeff Ballard drums
Fiete Felsch alto, soprano, flute
Peter Bolte alto, soprano, flute
Christof Lauer tenor, soprano
Lutz Büchner tenor, alto, clarinet
Thomas Gramatzki baritone, bass clarinet
Ingo Lahme bass trombone, tuba
supported by 15 fans who also own “Play a Bill Frisell Set List”
Jimmy easily would have fit in with this outfit, and it would have been a joy to listen to for another reason. These musicians are engaged and perform at the top of their game, every piece. Kenneth Pyron