East West (Nonesuch)

Bill Frisell

Released August 9, 2005

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2005






Grammy Award–winning guitarist Bill Frisell’s East/West—a live double-disc recorded during a pair of bi-coastal trio engagements—was released by Nonesuch in August 2005. Frisell is joined by Kenny Wolleson on drums and percussion and Tony Scherr on bass for East, which was recorded at New York’s Village Vanguard, and Viktor Krauss on bass for West, recorded at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California.

East and West both feature a mix of original Frisell compositions and popular, standard, and traditional tunes, written by a wide variety of songwriters, including George and Ira Gershwin, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash. East/West is Frisell’s first full-length live recording on the Nonesuch label. (A special digital-only release of other sets from the engagements—Further East / Further West—was made available for digital release.)

In a career that spans three decades, guitarist, composer, and bandleader Bill Frisell has been hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “a revered figure among musicians.” The paper went on to say that “like Miles Davis and few others, his signature is built from pure sound and inflection; an anti-technique that is instantly identifiable.” Frisell’s recordings over the last decades span a wide range of musical influences. His catalog, including 20 recordings for Nonesuch, has been cited by DownBeat as “the best recorded output of the decade.” Some highlights of his Nonesuch output are Buster Keaton film scores (The High Sign / One Week, Go West); original compositions for extended ensemble with horns (This Land, Blues Dream); soundtracks to Gary Larson cartoons (Quartet);interpretations of work by other classic and contemporary American composers (Have a Little Faith); and collaborations with the acclaimed rhythm section of bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Jim Keltner (Gone, Just Like a Train and, Good Dog, Happy Man). Other releases include an album with Nashville musicians (Nashville), the solo album Ghost Town, an album of his arrangements of songs by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach (The Sweetest Punch), a trio album with jazz legends Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, and a collection of American traditional songs and original compositions inspired by them entitled The Willies.

The Intercontinentals, nominated for a Grammy in 2004, is an album that combines Frisell’s brand of American roots music and his improvisational style with the influences of Brazilian, Greek, and Malian sounds. His 2004 release, entitled Unspeakable, won a Grammy in 2005.

Track Listing:


1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Barrett Strong / Norman Whitfield) 8:00

2. Blues for Los Angeles (Bill Frisell) 11:09

3. Shenandoah (Traditional) 12:05

4. Boubacar (Bill Frisell) 6:22

5. Pipe Down (Bill Frisell) 10:50

6. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan) 11:49


1. My Man’s Gone Now (George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin / DuBose Heyward) 3:48

2. The Days of Wine and Roses (Henry Mancini / Johnny Mercer) 9:20

3. You Can Run (Bill Frisell / Tony Scherr / Kenny Wollesen) 0:51

4. Ron Carter (Bill Frisell) 13:59

5. Interlude (Bill Frisell / Tony Scherr / Kenny Wollesen) 1:39

6. Goodnight Irene (Huddie Ledbetter / John A. Lomax) 8:57

7. The Vanguard (Bill Frisell / Tony Scherr / Kenny Wollesen) 4:44

8. People (Bob Merrill / Jule Styne) 4:29

9. Crazy (Willie Nelson) 4:31

10. Tennessee Flat Top Box (Johnny Cash) 2:38


Bill Frisell: guitars, loops
Viktor Krauss: bass
Kenny Wollesen: drums
Tony Scherr: bass, acoustic guitar
Kenny Wollesen: drums, percussion

Produced by Lee Townsend

Recorded live direct to 2-track at Yoshi’s (Oakland, CA), May 8-11, 2004, by Claudia Engelhart
Edited by Jon Evans and Lee Townsend at San Pablo Recorders, Berkeley, CA
Production Assistance: Martin Lane, Adam Blomberg
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York, NY

Recorded live at the Village Vanguard (New York, NY), December 9-12, 2003
Recording and Mixing Engineer: Tucker Martine
Assistant Engineer: Mantis Evar
Mixed at In the Pocket Studio, Forestville, CA
Assistant Engineer: Jonathan Chi
Production Assistance: Adam Blomberg, Martin Lane
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York, NY


Good music is where you find it. Sometimes it’s clear as day because the original is so great that there’s simply no doubt; other times it can be obscured by poor interpretation—but dig deep enough and unmistakable qualities are revealed. Over the past 25 years, guitarist Bill Frisell has built a reputation as a significant composer on albums like ’94’s This Land and ’01’s Blues Dream. But he’s equally known as an astute interpreter of others’ music, as on ’93’s Have a Little Faith—where he covered everyone from Copland to Madonna—and in performance, where he’s as likely to cover Dylan as Monk.

Frisell’s recent anti-solo approach—and his penchant for everything from the bluegrass of The Willies to the world music of The Intercontinentals—has garnered him fans who relate to his strange skewed lyricism. However, it has also alienated those who wish he’d return to a more clear-cut jazz-centricity. East/West will appeal to both. Nothing less than the best of what Frisell is all about, these two discs—culled from a 2004 stint at Yoshi’s in Oakland and a 2003 run at the Village Vanguard in New York—are as comprehensive a view of Frisell as any one (admittedly double) release is apt to provide.

Few artists can comfortably combine Gershwin and Mancini with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, but one of Frisell’s greatest strengths is that he can get to the crux of a song—any song. In a trio setting he can create a rich universe that’s as much about implication as the obvious. The Yoshi’s take on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” finds Frisell grabbing the defining essentials of the song and gradually evolving them over eight minutes. His control of an array of effects—so well-integrated that they’re like an additional appendage—allows him to create a full sound. Yet what makes even his most oblique phrasing so appealing and eminently approachable is his sense of space. He may be capable of the formidable displays of technique that go a long way to impressing guitar-o-philes, but he’ll never resort to them.

Instead, it’s all about feel. The Yoshi’s material, with bassist Viktor Krauss a more in-the-pocket player, is more elemental and groove-based. The New York disc, with Tony Scherr’s more open-minded sensibility, is definitively jazz-oriented, despite ending with Frisell and Scherr on acoustic guitars for “Crazy” and “Tennessee Flat Top.” Both trios, rounded out by drummer Kenny Wollesen, are clearly concerned with respecting the song, be it a cover or one of Frisell’s own.

East/West, Frisell’s strongest release in years, is almost the perfect album—not just in jazz, but in music, period. It serves as confident assurance to his existing fans that his career has been driven by choice and the love of a good song. It’s also the perfect introduction for a newcomer who wants to know why he’s considered one of the most original voices in jazz. Indeed, good music is where you find it.

John Kelman (All About Jazz)