Most folks who come to jazz via rock and roll find their way through the electric guitar. But while the guitar dominates rock, it was a latecomer to jazz. And as a solo instrument, it continues to take a backseat to horns and reeds. That said, the history of the guitar in jazz is peppered with great players: Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Tal Farlow, to name just a few. But with the unfortunate exception of jazz fusion in the '70s (which did no favors for jazz or rock), the sound of jazz guitar has always been the muted, soft tone of a full-bodied arch top.
Enter Bill Frisell.
Frisell possesses the rarest of qualities for jazz guitarists: the ability to identify himself with just one or two notes. His tone is utterly distinctive: almost acoustic in timbre, yet with a swell characteristic of pedal steel. But perhaps his most important quality is a certain sense of humor and playfulness that he brings to his compositions and playing.
Frisell has recorded a long string of solo LPs throughout the '80s and collaborated throughout the '90s with a long list of artists, most notably Elvis Costello, Ginger Baker, Marianne Faithfull, and John Zorn. As for tonight's show, Frisell will be working with the equally eclectic violinist Jenny Scheinman and multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz.