Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet
“Big Sur is more than just a musical recording. It’s a sonic novel—instrumental storytelling of the highest caliber delivered by an amazing storyteller. It’s Bill Frisell at his best.”—DownBeat Editor’s Pick
Adventurous guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, a longtime Wex fave, returns with his latest project steeped in the Americana spirit. The Big Sur Quintet performs selections from the vast array of original music inspired by the sweeping landscape of Big Sur in California that Frisell composed during a creative residency commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Frisell’s recent album Big Sur, his debut on Sony Classical’s recently revived OKeh label, makes a major contribution to the catalogue of esteemed art works inspired by this unique stretch of Western landscape. Over the past century, poems and novels by Robinson Jeffers, Henry Miller, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, and Richard Brautigan; photographs by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams; and music by Charles Lloyd, Lou Harrison, John Adams, the Beach Boys, and Fleet Foxes have all embodied the spirit of Big Sur’s rugged coastline and terrain, breathtaking vistas, and potential for communion with nature. Frisell evokes this remote and pastoral setting with deftly interwoven strands of chamber jazz, country, new classical, and folk music. He is joined by longtime musical companions Eyvind Kang, violist; cellist Hank Roberts; violinist Jenny Scheinman; and drummer Rudy Royston. (For Frisell devotees, this band is a combination of players from his 858 Quartet and Beautiful Dreamers trio.) Immerse yourself in the sound pictures Bill Frisell and the Big Sur Quintet summon, rich in detail and color, exquisitely shaded and resonant.
Bill Frisell on Big Sur
Looking back on his treasured time in Big Sur, Frisell said, “I've been so lucky playing and working so much, but it’s become rare in the past 20 years to actually have time to reflect on things and to let them percolate or simmer.” When he wasn’t writing in his cabin, Frisell found himself out the trail toward the lookout, settling onto one of the benches and writing down the melodies that popped into his head. “I filled up pages and pages,” he says, “the music just kept coming. When Jenny and Eyvind and Hank and Rudy came to rehearse, they got a feel for where I’d been…and that’s really when the music came to life. For much of this album, they are playing the actual notes that I wrote down, but the way they bring their own sound to it, there’s no way it can just be on the paper.
“This Big Sur Quintet feels like family. It’s evident in the way the musicians interact intuitively to shape the music while playing…it’s about how we’re connected. Whether the notes are written or improvised, all kinds of decisions are being made on the spur of the moment, which I just love. It keeps the music fresh. Hopefully, every time we play Big Sur, something new will happen.”