“Bill Frisell, …is probably the most important and innovative exponent of jazz guitar in his generation.” The Atlantic
The Shedd Institute welcomes back multi-award winning guitarist Bill Frisell with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) on tour in support of their recent release Valentine.
The Bill Frisell Trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston joins a rich legacy of three-member groups: the trios of Nat Cole, Hank Jones, Erroll Garner, Bill Evans and many others. It’s a heritage all but defined by the tensions between tradition and individuality, continuity and change, that have always informed jazz and spark every performance by the Frisell Trio.
“All three of these musicians have a deep sense of structure along with their exploratory approach to making music, so they can elaborate but never move too far away from what they need to do to serve the song. This trio is a sterling example of balancing that architectural sensibility with the spirit of spontaneity at the same time,” says Lee Townsend, producer of the Trio’s new recording Valentine.
Frisell, whose eternally boyish appearance and folksy way of talking belie a probing intellect, is attuned to the mysterious but scientifically grounded strength of the combination of three improvising musicians. The trio configuration is, after all, a musical permutation of the “power of three” central to every field from mythology and religion to mathematics and physics since Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades made up the triumvirate of Greek Gods.
As with every triangle, the Bill Frisell Trio draws its strength from having three separate sides (the musicians, each with his own sensibility) connected by three vertices (the harmony, melodies, and tempi of the material). Frisell, as the leader and chief composer, established the framework of meticulous untidiness and open-eared generosity, playing with economical wisdom and unforced daring. Thomas Morgan plays in and around Frisell’s guitar lines, supporting them and building from them in counterpoint that sounds both wholly organic and full of surprise. And Rudy Royston brings a third layer of feeling to the group while holding everything together.
“The music is about everyone trusting each other to the point where everybody’s in the state of mind where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and you feel safe enough to try anything. It’s … the trust that makes risks possible,” says Frisell.
The result is a vivid demonstration of the capacity of masters like Frisell, in the manner of Ellington, to push themselves, their collaborators, and their audiences to unexpected heights through the ever-restless force of their creativity. After more than two years playing jazz clubs and concert halls across the United States and throughout Europe performing a repertoire they varied every night, the Bill Frisell Trio has gelled as a group dedicated to fluidity and spontaneity.