Over the past decade, jazz guitarist and producer Bill Frisell has developed a distinctive take on Americana–one that envelops folk, blues, country, and brass-band music, Stephen Foster, Aaron Copland, and John Hiatt–and pastoral improvisations of his early work on ECM have morphed into a precisely layered pastel twang. On his 1995 album Nashville, Frisell ditched his longtime jazz trio to work with some of country music’s finest pickers, among them dobro master Jerry Douglas and bassist Viktor Krauss. In the years since he’s collaborated with players from both worlds. Last year he released an album that prominently featured steel-guitar whiz Greg Liesz and another made with jazz stars Elvin Jones and Dave Holland–and they sound more alike than you’d think. Frisell likes to overdub layers of guitar and banjo in an ethereal lattice that’s undeniably gorgeous but increasingly dull; even the considerable combined energy of Jones and Holland couldn’t overcome its narcotic effect. On his forthcoming The Willies (Nonesuch) he’s joined by Bad Livers multi-instrumentalist Danny Barnes and bassist Keith Lowe (Fiona Apple, Wayne Horvitz’s Zony Mash) on a mixture of originals and folk warhorses like “Goodnight Irene” and “Cluck Old Hen”; it’s one of his weakest efforts. Still, the group he’s bringing to Chicago is promising: the as-yet-unrecorded Intercontinental Quartet features great Brazilian guitarist and singer Vinicius Cantuaria, whom Frisell has backed in the past; Greek oud player Christos Govetas; and Malian percussionist Sidiki Camara, who’s worked with Oumou Sangare and Boubacar Traore. Here’s hoping they infect Frisell’s vision more than he infects theirs. This concert is part of HotHouse’s 15th anniversary celebration, which is also a fund-raiser; the steep $50 ticket includes an open bar and buffet. Sunday, May 12, 7 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jimmy Katz.