Bill Frisell
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use)
In Line (1983), 6.5/10
Theoretically (1984), 6/10
Rambler (1985), 6.5/10
Smash & Scatteration (1985), 5.5/10
Power Tools: Strange Meeting (1987), 7/10
Lookout For Hope (1988), 7/10
Before We Were Born (1989), 8/10
Is That You (1990), 7/10
Where in the World (1991), 7.5/10
Have A Little Faith (1992), 5/10
This Land (1993), 5/10
The High Sign One Week (1994), 6/10
Go West (1994), 6.5/10
Deep Dead Blue (1995), 3/10
American Blood/Safety In Numbers (1995), 5/10
Live (1995), 4/10
Quartet (1996), 6/10
Nashville (1997), 5.5/10
Angel Song (1997), 6.5/10
Gone Just Like A Train (1997), 5/10
Songs We Know (1998), 5/10
Good Dog Happy Man (1999), 4/10
Sweetest Punch (1999), 3/10
Ghost Town (2000), 6.5/10
Blues Dream (2001), 6/10
Frisell, Holland, Jones (2001), 5/10
The Willies (2002), 4/10
The Intercontinentals (2003), 5/10
Unspeakable (2004), 5/10
Richter 858 (2005), 6/10
Disfarmer (2007), 6.5/10
History Mystery (2008), 6/10
Beautiful Dreamers (2010), 5/10
Sign of Life (2011), 5/10
Links:

As removed as possible from the austere tone of the solo creative improvisation, guitarist Bill Frisell (1951), who moved to New York in 1980, a staple of Paul Motian's ensemble (1981-84), assimilated rock and jazz innovations while harking back to old-time church and folk music, and sometimes to marching bands and cafe orchestras, on In Line (august 1982), a collection of guitar solos and duets with bassist Arild Andersen, and on Rambler (august 1984), that featured trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, tuba player Bob Stewart, bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Paul Motian. The heavy-metal jazz trio Power Tools, with Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums and Melvin Gibbs on bass, that debuted on Strange Meeting (january 1987), highlighted Frisell's vast vocabulary of guitar techniques and ambient cacophony. In the meantime, Frisell's eclectic and eccentric postmodernist art peaked with the unstable chamber music of Lookout For Hope (march 1987), by a quartet with Hank Roberts on cello and Joey Baron on drums, and especially Before We Were Born (august 1988), featuring several distinguished guests (Baron, Roberts, guitarist Arto Lindsay, keyboardist Peter Scherer, saxophonists Julius Hemphill, Doug Wieselman and Billy Drewes) and offering a broad range of stylistic experiments, from bluegrass to noise (all condensed in Hard Plains Drifter).
Is That You (august 1989), in a bass-less trio with Wayne Horvitz on keyboards and Baron, and especially Where in the World (february 1991), virtually a continuation of Lookout For Hope, were calmer works that sounded like nostalgic tributes to his civilization, albeit distorted by evergreen strains of neurosis.
This Land (october 1992), by a sextet juxtaposing a horn section (clarinetist Don Byron, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, alto saxophonist Billy Drewes) to his moody guitar technique, scoured the American musical subconscious. Continuing to drift away from jazz music and into a pastoral mood, Frisell reinvented his musical roots in a series of quiet stylistic tours de force: the country-music detour (with mandolin, banjo, dobro, bass, harmonica and Robin Holcomb's vocals) of Nashville (november 1996); Ghost Town (2000), on which he played all of the instruments by himself; the deceptively ambitious Blues Dream (2001), played by a septet (with Drewes, Fowlkes, trumpeter Ron Miles, steel guitarist Greg Leisz, bass and drums). All stood as mad incursion into the American psyche. And The Intercontinentals (2003), featuring a multi-national ensemble, pushed Frisell's musical explorations even beyond the USA.


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Il chitarrista Bill Frisell (nato a Baltimore nel 1951, ma cresciuto a Denver) è in qualche modo un nostalgico all'interno della musica improvvisata degli anni '90: cresciuto nell'era di Jim Hall e Jimi Hendrix, non può fare a meno delle innovazioni tecniche da questi prodotte, ma resta affezionato soprattutto alle musichette umili e popolane del folklore urbano, alle elegie che lo accompagnano dai tempi di Rambler e Lonesome. Nella più fiera tradizione della transavanguardia rock Frisell eredita la felice fantasia degli artisti di mosaici e di murales, ma con il genio deformante dei pittori cubisti.

Nato in Maryland ma cresciuto in Colorado, e allievo di Jim Hall, Bill Frisell (1951) si fa le ossa nel trio di Paul Motian, con il quale incide sei album.

Frisell's solo debut album, In Line (ECM, 1983), highlights his guitar style, that borrows both from the steel guitar and from Hendrix's distortions. It also introduces an introverted poet of music. His roots are quite traditional: the quiet melodic excursions of Start and Godson Song (that frame the collection at the beginning and at the end) are redolent of many folk and church motifs. But he revisits his roots in a futuristic and surreal way, pushing it into an unmarked and unguarded psychological territory. Throughout is almost new-age music, a sequence of delicate and hypnotic patterns that achieve an almost spiritual quality. The dual-personality Smile On You has two flows of sound, one bluesy and one dreamy, one side antagonizing but also inspiring the other. The impressionistic watercolor of In Line juxtaposes a subdued repetitive pattern and rapid-fire chords in an exotic language. The celestial glissando of Beach, the album's standout, creates a cosmic vision of whirling nebulae and supernatural beings; ambient music for astronauts.

Il suo virtuosismo risalta anche dai duetti alle chitarre più svariate con Vernon Reid di Smash & Scatteration (Minor Music, 1985 - Ryko, 1986), in particolare quelli pervasi dalle atmosfere degli anni ruggenti (Size 10 1/2 Sneaks, Last Nights Of Paris). L'uso del sintetizzatore non è invece quasi mai felice (Burden of Dreams sembra una satira delle fughe di Bach), e gli esperimenti più astratti (Fr Fr Frisell e la lunga Black Light) si perdono in quisquilie che fanno sembrare Robert Fripp un Beethoven della chitarra.

Con la storica collaborazione con Tim Berne su Theoretically (Empire, 1984 - Minor Music, 1986), Frisell si afferma definitivamente come una delle chitarre più creative dell'era.

Ma le composizioni di Rambler (ECM, 1985) per tuba (Bob Stewart) e tromba (Kenny Wheeler), che solo saltuariamente indulgono in temi di jazz-rock convenzionale (Tone, Resistor, e soprattutto Strange Meeting), sembrano rifarsi più alle bande marcianti (Music I Heard), alle orchestrine dei caffè (il tango struggente di Rambler "cantato" in coppia dalla slide di Frisell e dalla tromba di Wheeler), ai combo dei Sixties (la melodia nostalgica di When We Go) e alle colonne sonore del cinema (la suspence gotica di Wizard Of Odds) che al jazz d'avanguardia. La formazione, completata da Paul Motian alla batteria, lo spinge lontano dalle atmosfere evanescenti di In Line ed esalta l'intricata qualita' polifonica delle sue composizioni. Primo compiuto saggio della sua romantica trasgressione, questo disco segna l'inizio di una delle carriere più geniali del nuovo jazz.

Frisell si afferma dapprima come il Ry Cooder del nuovo jazz, appena più umoristico e dissonante, decisamente meno calligrafico. Nell'album Lookout For Hope (ECM, 1988), con Hank Roberts al cello e Joey Baron alla batteria, infatti, sfilano brani come il valzer-reggae ubriaco Little Brother Bobby, il country and western da camera Handdog, il surf caraibico alla Penguin Cafe Orchestra di Alien Prints e soprattutto la romantica ballata tex-mex Lonesome, che continua l'epica alla Morricone di Rambler. Fra le perle del disco si contano anche pastiche indecifrabili come Lookout For Hope e Remedios The Beauty, nei quali si colgono citazioni folk e rock ma come deformate e disgregate da un labirinto di specchi. Lo stile chitarristico è maturato in un singolare "surf-jazz" che prende inflessioni dal rock strumentale degli anni '50 e '60 e ne stravolge la semantica in appassionati assoli improvvisati, in grovigli inestricabili di accordi gettati alla rinfusa. I suoi duetti con il violoncellista Hank Roberts e il bassista Kermit Driscoll trasformano l'ensemble in una string band poli-etnica. Joey Baron, un fuoriclasse della batteria, non meno "scapigliato" dei compagni, completa il quartetto più creativo del nuovo jazz.

Alla carriera "seria" del quartetto, Frisell alterna però un'attività semi-clandestina di "heavy metal jazz" nel trio Power Tools formato con Ronald Shannon Jackson e Melvin Gibbs, esorditi con Strange Meeting (Island Antilles, 1987). Strange Meeting e Wadmalaw Island marchiano a fuoco quell'esperienza con le distorsioni "ambientali" di Frisell, pronipoti della psichedelia e cugine della new age (come dimostra anche la soave melodia cubista di When We Go). I tocchi leziosi, le manfrine atonali, i twang onirici, i timbri provocanti fanno del chitarrista un intrattenitore impareggiabile, anche quando indulge in glissando paradossali (Unscientific American, The President's Nap) e in cacofonie dispersive (Wolf In Sheep's Clothing), capace di innalzare a musica d'atmosfera persino spaventose aberrazioni come Howard Beach Memoirs.

Le sette vite di Frisell ne comprendono anche una con John Scofield e Peter Erskine nel quartetto Bass Desires di Marc Johnson e una a far da spalla a jazzisti estetizzanti come Jan Garbarek e Eberhard Weber.

Il compositore giunge a maturazione con Before We Were Born (Elektra, 1989), sul quale Frisell alterna deliri tecno-abrasivi, come nella title-track (con Arto Lindsay alla chitarra, Baron alla batteria e Peter Scherer alle tastiere, un quartetto che è una contraddizione in termini), a lunghe, esilaranti jam-collage di vaudeville, musica da circo, swing da balera, blues-rock, dissonanze clownesche, ragtime e bandismi zappiani, come Some Songs And Dance (con Julius Hemphill al sax e Doug Wieselman al sax, oltre ai soliti Baron e Roberts), toccando vertici di assurdità nelle pirotecniche variazioni su tema western di Hard Plains Drifter (con John Zorn alla regia), che passano da un bluegrass mozzafiato a un feroce heavy-metal, da una sonata per violoncello a un blues strascicato, da una serenata hawaiana a un baccanale dissonante, e nella non meno demenziale e cacofonica Lone Ranger, con un assolo vomitevole a ritmo industriale. Al di là delle trame rocambolesche e dell'approccio metalinguistico, Frisell viene accomunato a Thelonious Monk per lo humour affabile delle sue melodie e gli inciampi bizzarri dei suoi ritmi. Sia come sia, abbandonato il languido bozzettismo dei dischi precedenti, Frisell si volge ad affreschi di portata michelangiolesca (Hard Plains Drifter e Some Songs And Dance) nei quali decenni di musica sfrecciano rapidamente come in un coma sonoro.

Is That You (Elektra, 1990), featuring Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, Joey Baron on drums, and (on two pieces) Dave Hofstra on tuba and bass, is a wide-ranging survey of styles and moods, from the neoclassical resonance of Rag to the desolate post-blues reverbs and minimalist repetition of No Man's Land. Nino Rota and Frank Zappa coexist in the comic vivisections of old-fashioned motifs, whether inspired by country music (Twenty Years), marching bands (Is That You) or folk ballads (Hello Nellie). A solemn languor permeates the exotic pace of The Way Home and an optimistic melody takes hold of Half A Million. Frisell's endless postmodernist reinvention often feels like a parody, when it is in fact a nostalgic tribute to his civilization, albeit distorted by evergreen strains of neurosis and insecurity.

(Translation by/Tradotto da Davide Carrozza with/con [anonimo])

Is That You (Elektra, 1990), con Wayne Horvitz alle tastiere, Joey Baron alla batteria e (in due pezzi) Dave Hofstra alla tuba e al basso, conferma la raggiunta maturità con una raccolta ancor più fantasiosa e creativa di aforismi eterogenei, dalle risonanze cacofoniche neoclassiche di Rag ai riverberi desolati post-blues e le ripetizioni minimaliste di No Man's Land. Nino Rota e Frank Zappa convivono nelle sue spassose vivisezioni di temi obsoleti, con accenni di country (Twenty Years), bande paesane (Is That You), ballate folk (Hello Nellie). Un solenne languore permea il ritmo esotico di The Way Home e una melodia ottimista rende possesso di Half A Million. L'infinita reinvenzione postmoderna di Frisell sembra spesso una parodia, quand'è infatti un nostalgico tributo alla sua civiltà, sebbene distorta da motivi popolari di nevrosi e insicurezza.

Frisell's guitar style has become more imaginative over the years, although his compositions are not always as entertaining as his playing. His style has become a repertory of nonsensical sound effects, a meteor shower of incoherent noises that magically coheres in the same elegant pattern.

A 1991 live performance by the trio of Frisell, Driscoll and Baron is documented by Live (Gramavision, 1995).

Where in the World (Elektra, 1991) is a much better performance by the same line-up of Lookout For Hope, and one of Frisell's masterpieces, at least in the "chamber new-age" genre. The pieces owe their elegant charm to a tension between contrasting elements: the guitar versus the strings, mild rhythms versus bursts of energy, minimalist repetition versus linear progression, abstract soundpainting versus naive melodies. Unsung Heroes feels like a psychedelic remix of sleepy dancehall music mercilessly devastated by Jimi Hendrix-ian guitar pyrotechnics. An orchestral neoclassical undercurrent pervades Rob Roy with its minimalist undulating patterns that nurture a soaring guitar prayer. The guitar sabotages as well the haunting sinister trance of Worry Doll, that would otherwise constitute the most austere venture into the realm of chamber music. Spell bridges that oneiric atmosphere with a loud verbose jazz-rock solo and an eerie exotic coda. The simple tender elegy of Child At Heart takes forever to emerge from a gentle pond of tones. Beautiful E is a brief adagio for strings. Again returns to the sleepy, nocturnal, almost "stoned" dancehall atmosphere, and Let Me In further reduces the biological functions, approaching a funereal pace and a total psychological implosion. The placid nonsense of Where In The World? is a postmodernist deconstruction of easy-listening muzak and country music that is perhaps the best candidate for aesthetic manifesto of this band.

Have A Little Faith (Elektra, 1992) is a collection of covers that wastes the talents of Don Byron, Guy Klucevsek, Kermit Driscoll and Joey Baron. It mostly highlights Frisell's passion for crossing stylistic borders, the sources ranging from folk to classical music.

This Land (Nonesuch, 1993), an album recorded by a sextet that is even less "jazz", scours the American musical subconscious for a program that displays Frisell's dexterity as much as his lack of inspiration.

It turned out that Frisell was the perfect man to score the soundtracks to the films of Buster Keaton. The High Sign One Week (Elektra, 1994) and Go West (Elektra, 1994) mirror Keaton's funny mis-adventures with a stream of consciousness that is comic and nostalgic at the same time, both unpredictable and very familiar. The latter, in particular, could be the album in which Frisell's unorthodox passion for Americana delivered the most poetic results.

After Deep Dead Blue (Nonesuch, 1995), a collaboration with pop singer Elvis Costello, later repeated by the even more awful Sweetest Punch (Decca, 1999), and American Blood/Safety In Numbers (Intuition, 1995), a collaboration with Brian Ales, Frisell's quartet with Roberts, Driscoll and Baron disbanded, and Frisell formed a new (drummerless) one. Quartet (1996), with Ron Miles on trumpet, Eyvind Kang on violin and tuba and Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, that mostly collects rearranged versions of music composed for movie soundtracks, is a little too quirky for the sake of being quirky (it was mostly composed for TV programs and movies), but still a merry-go-round of ideas.

The country-music detour of Nashville (november 1996) was another Frisell-ian tour de force and another mad incursion in the American psyche (with mandolin, banjo, dobro, bass, harmonica and Robin Holcomb's vocals).

Angel Song (ECM, 1997), a collaboration with Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz and Dave Holland, Gone Just Like A Train (Nonesuch, 1997), a more conventional no-nonsense guitar trio, Songs We Know (Nonesuch, 1998), a collaboration with pianist Fred Hersch, and Good Dog Happy Man (Nonesuch, 1999), another revisionist country album (with Wayne Horvitz augmenting the guitar-bass-drums trio and the first version of Monroe), were all minor works.

Frisell played all of the instruments himself on Ghost Town (Nonesuch, 2000), which was therefore his first "solo" and his best album in a while. Not only does this format allow him to showcase his supernatural guitar technique, but the majority of the album boasts original compositions of artistic depth, not mere jokes or tributes. The delicate tapestry Tell Your Ma Tell Your Pa is grounded in the countryside and in the province, away from the bustling metropolis of jazz and rock music. And that's where the album remains for the tender domestic lullaby Ghost Town Poem For Eva and the nostalgic evocation of Winter Always Turns To Spring.
Frisell's oneiric spaces are explored in Variation On A Theme, permeated with minimalist repetition and neoclassical grace, in What A World (the sonic standout of the album), whose languid dissonant tones evoke a state of madness, in Outlaw, a muffled spaghetti-western theme, Frisell cannot and does not compete with the domestic warmth of Leo Kottke and the transcendental depth of John Fahey. In the solo acoustic guitar genre he brings out the most personal and private facets of his art that he somehow shunned in the collaborative efforts. This is a cathartic and adult work. His poignant soliloquy does not always work, but when it works it does reach deep inside in the same manner that the great romantic composers achieved.

On the deceptively ambitious Blues Dream (Nonesuch, 2001), played by a septet, Frisell reinvented the roots that he had merely been aping with his covers. This time the pieces are all original, despite the fact that they all "sound" like deconstructed standards. This process ends up yielding one of his most atmospheric works. Blues Dream could be the overture to an opera by Tom Waits, and Where Do We Go? returns to one of Frisell's trademark genres: the slow, nocturnal, romantic dancehall dirge. The subdued incursion in Frisell's subconscious continues with the hard-rocking and quasi-boogie Ron Carter, the calm evocative rural Outlaws, the psychedelic trance of Greg Leisz, the warped big-band theme Things Will Never Be The Same that explore different facets of Frisell's "blues". Oddly enough, many of the pieces are barely sketched, even though the septet has the skills to do much more with Frisell's ideas. The longer What Do We Do?, however, proves the point: the slow crescendo towards an anthemic refrain doesn't achieve much.

Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones (Nonesuch, 2001) is a mediocre collaboration.

Frisell formed The Willies (Nonesuch, 2002) with banjo player Danny Barnes (of the Bad Livers) and bassist Keith Lowe to play his version of Grisman's jazzgrass.

Despite the impressive international cast, The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch, 2003) is another failure, but pushes Frisell's explorations beyond America.

Despite the number and level of collaborations, which includes the Sex Mob quartet (Tony Scherr, Kenny Wollesen and, although less utilized, Steven Bernstein and Briggan Krauss), the 858 Strings (violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts), as well as trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, keyboardist Adam Dorn and percussionist Don Alias, Unspeakable (Nonesuch, 2004) sounds, at best, like mellow background muzak (soul melodies, string section). The main instigator is probably producer and sampler Hal Willner, who adorned Frisell's compositions with funk grooves and sonic inserts pulled from a vast library of recordings. Petra Haden & Bill Frisell (2005) was a collaboration with That Dog's vocalist.

Richter 858 (Songlines, 2005) is a soundtrack composed (in 2002) for an art exhibition, and one of his best albums in a while, scored for guitar and string trio. The first movement opens with wildly dissonant interplay but soon achieves an almost trancey balance between the various voices. The voices lose their center of mass in the second movement, resulting in disjointed cacophony. A melody surfaces in the third movement, passed from one instrument to the other. The fourth movement (the album's centerpiece) begins with slow weeping extended tones but then the strings intone a dance-like pattern against the noises of the guitar, and their counterpoint soon spirals out of control. The jovial atmosphere spills over into the fifth movement, another dance-like piece halfway between Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat and Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique. The sequence is odd, as the massive, swarming drones of the sixth movement and the guitar effects imagine a technological nightmare that does not quite follow from the previous two movements. It is the seventh that returns to the flavor of medieval street dance with even more passion. There is much to absorb, but probably also much that could have been pruned away.

Frisell/Carter/Motian (september 2005) was a collaboration with Ron Carter and Paul Motian.

The double-CD East West (Nonesuch, 2005) documents (terrible) live performances by Frisell in different trio line-ups.

Floratone (2007) was actually a producer's album: producers Lee Townsend and Tucker Martine manipulated some live jams by guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Matt Chamberlain to produce ambient noir jazz chamber music.

(Translation by/Tradotto da Davide Carrozza)

Lo stile chitarristico di Frisell, negli anni, si è fatto più ingegnoso, sebbene le sue composizioni non siano sempre divertenti come la sua esecuzione. Il suo stile è diventato un repertorio di nonsense sonori, una doccia di meteore di rumori incoerenti che magicamente aderiscono nello stesso elegante pattern.

Una performance dal vivo del '91 del trio Frisell, Driscoll e Baron è documentata in Live (Gramavision, 1995).

Where in the World (Elektra, 1991) è una migliore performance della stessa formazione di Lookout For Hope, e uno dei capolavori di Frisell, almeno nel genere "new age da camera".

Have A Little Faith (Elektra, 1992) è una raccolta di cover che spreca il talento di Don Byron, Guy Klucevsek, Kermit Driscoll e Joey Baron. Evidenzia più che altro la passione di Frisell per l'incrocio di confini stilistici, con fonti che vanno dal folk alla classica.

This Land (Nonesuch, 1993), un album registrato da un sestetto che ancora meno "jazz", perlustra il subconscio musicale americano per un programma che mostra tanto la destrezza di Frisell quanto la sua mancanza di ispirazione.

Venne fuori che Frisell era l'uomo perfetto per comporre le colonne sonore dei film di Buster Keaton. The High Sign One Week (Elektra, 1994) e Go West (Elektra, 1994) rispecchiano le divertenti disavventure di Keaton con un flusso di coscienza che è contemporaneamente comico e nostalgico, imprevedibile ma molto familiare. Nel secondo album, in particolare, forse la passione non ortodossa di Frisell per la cultura americana ha dato i risultati più poetici.

Dopo Deep Dead Blue (Nonesuch, 1995), una collaborazione con il cantante pop Elvis Costello, poi ripetuta nell'ancora più brutto Sweetest Punch (Decca, 1999), e American Blood/Safety In Numbers (Intuition, 1995), una collaborazione con Brian Ales, il quartetto di Frisell con Roberts, Driscoll e Baron si sciolse, e Frisell ne formò uno nuovo (senza batterista). Quartet (1996), con Ron Miles alla tromba, Eyvind Kang al violino e alla tuba e Curtis Fowlkes al trombone, che raccoglie perlopiù versioni riarrangiate di musica composta per colonne sonore cinematografiche, è un po' troppo eccentrico per amor d'essere eccentrico (la maggior parte fu composta per film e programmi televisivi), ma ancora un carosello di idee.

La deviazione country di Nashville (november 1996) è un altro tour de force Frisell-iano e un'altra folle incursione nella psiche americana (con mandolino, banjo, chitarra dobro, basso, armonica e la voce di Robin Holcomb).

Angel Song (ECM, 1997), una collaborazione con Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz w Dave Holland, Gone Just Like A Train (Nonesuch, 1997), un trio di chitarre no-nonsense pił convenzionale, Songs We Know (Nonesuch, 1998), una collaborazione con il pianista Fred Hersch, e Good Dog Happy Man (Nonesuch, 1999), un altro album country revisionista (con Wayne Horvitz che si aggiunge al trio chitarra-basso-batteria), erano tutte opere minori.

Frisell suonò tutti gli strumenti in Ghost Town (Nonesuch, 2000), che fu così il suo primo album da solo e il suo migliore per un po'. Non solo questo formato gli permette di mostrare la sua tecnica soprannaturale, ma la maggioranza dell'album vanta composizioni originali di grande profondità artistica, non semplici scherzi o tributi.

Blues Dream(Nonesuch, 2001), meno ambizioso di quanto sembra e suonato da un sestetto, Frisell reinventa le radici che si limitava a scimmiottare nelle sue cover. Questa volta i pezzi sono tutti originali, nonostante "suonino" come cover decostruite. Finisce per suonare come uno dei suoi lavori più atmosferici.

Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones (Nonesuch, 2001) è una terribile collaborazione.

Frisell formò The Willies (Nonesuch, 2002) con il suonatore di banjo Danny Barnes (dei Bad Livers) e il bassista Keith Lowe per suonare la sua versione del jazzgrass di Grisman.

Nonostante l'impressionante cast internazionale, The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch, 2003) è un altro fallimento, ma spinge le esplorazioni di Frisell al di là dell'America.

Nonostante il numero e il livello delle collaborazioni, che includono il quartetto Sex Mob (Tony Scherr, Kenny Wollesen e, sebbene meno utilizzati, Steven Bernstein e Briggan Krauss), gli 858 Strings (la violinista Jenny Scheinman, il violista Eyvind Kang, il violoncellista Hank Roberts), come anche il trombonista Curtis Fowlkes, il tastierista Adam Dorn e il percussionista Don Alias, Unspeakable (Nonesuch, 2004) suona, nei casi migliori, come pacata muzak di sottofondo (melodie soul, sezioni per archi). Forse, il principale istigatore è il produttore e campionatore Hal Willner, che adorna le composizioni di Frisell con groove funk e inserti sonori tirati fuori da una vasta libreria di registrazioni. Petra Haden & Bill Frisell (2005) era una collaborazione con la cantante dei That Dog.

Richter 858 (Songlines, 2005) è una colonna sonora composta (nel 2002) per un'esposizione d'arte e uno dei suoi migliori album del momento, per chitarra e trio d'archi.

Frisell/Carter/Motian (settembre 2005) è una collaborazione con Ron Carter e Paul Motian.

Il doppio CD East West (Nonesuch, 2005) documenta (terribili) performance live di Frisell in differenti formazioni da trio.

Floratone (2007) è l'album di un produttore: i produttori Lee Townsend e Tucker Martine manipolarono delle improvvisazioni live del chitarrista Bill Frisell e del batterista Matt Chamberlain per produrre musica da camera ambient noir jazz.

Derived from a multimedia collaboration with artist Jim Woodring ("Mysterio Sympatico", 2002) and from a television show ("Stories from the Heart of the Land", 2007), the double-disc History Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008) featured expanded instrumentation (around his veteran string section of violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang and cellist Hank Roberts), a more relaxed charm, and an eclectic mix of world-music, blues, folk, cabaret and jazz. The three variations of Monroe (originally introduced on Good Dog Happy Man) are the only major example of Frisell's oneiric chamber music. The ensemble shines at performing smooth fluid "orchestral" themes that evoke old-fashioned street bands (Probability Cloud), plunges into one bloody blues-jazz jam (Struggle Pt. 2) and mauls the agonizing Waltz for Baltimore. The covers include Lee Konitz's Sub-Conscious Lee, Traore's Baba Drame and Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come. Like it is often the case with Frisell's work, may of the best ideas are dispersed among miniature pieces that are not allowed to grow and prosper.

Frisell collaborated with veteran jazz guitarist Jim Hall on Dialogues (1998) and Hemispheres (2008).

Disfarmer (march 2007) is a "jazz opera" of sorts and one of his most accessible albums ever. The lazy, anemic Disfarmer Theme, the cryptic and suspenseful Focus, the veiled country music of the otherworldly trance of Shutter Dream and the gentle emptiness Lost Again Dark recycle ideas that Frisell has better explored in previous albums, although here they are framed in classical elegance. For a moment the bluesy Drink harks back to his roots, but the abstract meditation of Think better represents the real Frisell of this album. A plaintive folk melody surfaces in I Am Not A Farmer but the three-part impressionistic fresco of Arkansas is Frisell's real idea of a tribute to the province. After a Monet-like stroll in Natural Light, Frisell ends the album with the melancholy meditation of Did You See Him?
Overall, the need to narrate a story detracts from his hyper-fusion, that here is reduced to an elegant parade of post-folk cliches. Gone is also his sense of humor, that probably helped make his guitar playing so eccentric. Frisell sounds less interested in guitar invention and more in assembling the right timbres for his scores. Unfortunately, he often sounds absent-minded, as if he didn't quite focus on the music that is shaping up under his nose. Nonetheless, the general atmosphere is quite magical, and the brief pieces provide an opportunity for pointillistic soundpainting at a less granular level.

The Beautiful Dreamers, a trio with Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums, debuted with Beautiful Dreamers (april 2010), mostly a revision of old Frisell compositions plus covers of some classics. The emphasis was on Frisell's guitar style, a style that sounds like anything except a guitar.

Frisell scored the soundtrack for Leonard Farlinger's All Hat and recorded Lagrimas Mexicanas with Brazilian songwriter Vinicius Cantuaria, the vocalist of Frisell's The Intercontinentals.

The chamber program of Richter 858 was continued on Sign of Life (october 2010) , his second recording with the string quartet 858 Quartet, containing the ballad It's A Long Story.

All We Are Saying (april 2010) was a tribute to John Lennon.

Bill Frisell's Floratone returned with II (Savoy, 2012).

Silent Comedy (december 2012) contains brief improvised solos.

In 2013 Bill Frisell also debuted the multimedia work Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish.

Big Sur (march 2013) combines Beautiful Dreamers and the 858 Quartet: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), Hank Roberts (cello) and Rudy Royston (drums).

Just Listen (november 2008) documents live duets between Joey Baron on drums and Bill Frisell on guitar.

Guitar in the Space Age(Okeh, 2014) is a tribute to rock music of the 1960s.

When You Wish Upon A Star (Okeh, 2016) was a tribute of sorts to television and film soundtracks.

The quartet formed in 2014 with Andrew Cyrille (drums), Richard Teitelbaum (piano and synthesizer) and Ben Street (contrabass) debuted with The Declaration Of Musical Independence (july 2014), mostly composed by Frisell.

Frisell also played in George Lloyd's Marvels, that released I Long To See You (april 2015) and Masters Of War (november 2016).

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