Behind guitarist Bill Frisell’s affable demeanor there’s a steely-willed artist whose creative ambitions span the continent. Since his early days on the Downtown Manhattan scene in the mid-1970s, when he became a key collaborator with John Zorn, Frisell has steadily expanded his sonic purview, staking a claim to an ever-greater range of media, material, and musical traditions. From Charles Ives and Aaron Copland to Buster Keaton and Bob Dylan, from urban thrash and American Songbook ballads to country blues and Nashville twang, Frisell distills the essence of the American experience.
As a Resident Artistic Director, he premieres two of his latest and most ambitious multi-media projects with a powerhouse ensemble that builds on his 858 Quartet with violinist Jenny Scheinman and cellist Hank Roberts. Rather than showcasing his protean guitar playing, both works foreground Frisell as a composer who has honed a singular language marked by vintage Americana cadences and post-modern juxtapositions. A collaboration with the prolific, Grammy Award-winning producer Hal Willner, Kaddish is a beautiful and harrowing work based on the devastating poem Allen Ginsberg wrote upon the suicide of his mother. With recitation by Willner and director Chloe Webb, the piece features Frisell’s score and visual design by artist Ralph Steadman, renowned for his twisted, pitch-perfect graphics for the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson.