Bill Frisell's Big Sur, on Sony's resurrected Okeh imprint, collects 19 individual pieces in a suite commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival. He spent ten days in retreat at Big Sur's Glen Deven Ranch, where he composed most of it. His band on this date includes his 858 Quartet -- Jenny Scheinman: violin; Eyvind Kang: viola; Hank Roberts: cello-- and his drummer Rudy Royston; Kang and Royston are from his Beautiful Dreamers group, making this an unorthodox string quartet with drums.
In 2012, the Monterey jazz festival put composer/guitarist Bill Frisell in a cabin at a remote ranch on the Big Sur coastline, and left him there to come up with his reactions to the landscape. The project – combining the guitarist's chamber-musical 858 Quartet and more country-tinged Beautiful Dreamers trio – produced a festival performance and this abundantly varied 18-track studio album. Like all Frisell's inimitable impressions of America, it's joyous, mournful, bluesy, minimal, intricate, direct as a pop song and impressionistically mysterious by turns.
At this point in the career of guitarist Bill Frisell, there’s not much point in continuing to talk about his music as “jazz”—or as “Americana” . . . or really as anything for that matter. Frisell has cornered the market on something wholly his own: an instrumental form that uses ….
Few overt California clichés cling to “Big Sur,” which Bill Frisell wrote in the seclusion of a ranch in the famed Pacific Coast outpost, where many a seeker of America’s — or humanity’s — soul has retreated. Many of the songs have place-related names (“Highway 1,” “Going to California”) and there’s a clear nod to surf-rock on “The Big One. ” But this idiosyncratic and highly sympathetic quintet, which features viola, cello, and violin next to Frisell’s guitar and Rudy Royston’s drums, mostly continues its leader’s ongoing articulation of a style that hovers between the poles of chamber music and folk.
Is there an artist as well-suited to record an album inspired by Big Sur as Bill Frisell? Having spent much of his long career working a fertile seam in the jazz world that shares ground with Americana and folk, Frisell and his often twang-dusted tone seems tailor-made for sweeping vistas and pastoral wonders. Stemming from a 2012 commission by the Monterey Jazz Festival, “Big Sur” is the result of Frisell holing himself up in a cabin at the 860-acre Glen Deven Ranch and writing music for wherever this natural muse took him. This is a modal window.