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Austin Chronicle Roadkill

OCTOBER 6, 1997: 

Bill Frisell
Bates Recital Hall
Saturday, October 4


Bill Frisell can't stop moving. His recent projects alone include composing scores to several Buster Keaton films, an album of country music only he could create, and a just-completed session with bassist Victor Krause and rock drummer Jim Keltner. And after years of being backed by the bass and drums team of Kermit Driscoll and Joey Baron, his new working band, featured on the amazing Bill Frisell Quartet (Nonesuch) has no rhythm section at all. This new band -- Ron Miles on trumpet, Eyvind Kang on violin/tuba, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone and Frisell on guitar -- is, to put it lightly, breaking new ground.

"Joey Baron made this decision that he didn't want to spend all this time playing in my band, that he wanted to work on his own stuff," says Frisell. "So it was like, time's up, I better think of something else. Joey's kind of an irreplaceable person. I didn't want to just get another drummer and always be thinking about what Joey would have been doing. It seemed a good time to just totally shake the whole thing up. It's really a challenge to figure out how to make the music work without bass, drums, or any typical kind of rhythm instruments."

The quartet does work, though, making snake-like ethereal jazz music of remarkable energy and passion. Frisell's excited about playing Austin again, and has fond memories of his Continental Club appearance in front of the Elvis mural years ago. And that's not his only Austin connection, either. "A few weeks ago I went to a club in Seattle, and these guys were opening. I had no idea who they were, and they starting playing and I just about had a heart attack. At first, this guy was playing banjo, but then he picked up the guitar and it was really... disturbing."

When Frisell sought out the player, it turned out to be recent Puget Sound transplant Danny Barnes. Though neither of them had heard of the other, the modest Frisell, in his continuing love and pursuit of a new kind of Americana, and who at age 46 continues to grow as a truly original musical voice, insisted Barnes show him some licks.

"He was really nice; he invited me to his house and I had this lesson. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm so interested in all this music. I don't think this lifetime is going to be long enough to learn to play it." -- Jeff McCord


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