Track 1
Larry Coryell "Lady Coryell" (from Lady Coryell, Vanguard)
Coryell, guitars, bass, composer; Bob Moses, drums. Recorded in 1969.

Man, I have no idea what this is. I have a feeling I've heard this before but I can't say exactly who it is. It's resonating with something from my '70s head. [After a long pause] Oh! OK, is this Larry Coryell? Yeah, this is like digging way back into my memory.

There was something when it first came on that was resonating with me—something in the tone that triggered something in my memory. And I know I've heard this album before. It scares me the way my memory is going. But Larry was a major, huge influence on me.

The psychedelic backwards guitar effects here are definitely coming out of the Beatles. It's the sound that some guitarists are recreating these days with the Boomerang and other effects pedals. And Coryell pioneered that whole scene in the late '60s.

Yeah, he was an important guy for me. I remember that album. And I remember seeing Larry play around that time. It was 1968 and I had not too long before that heard Wes Montgomery for the first time and became obsessed with him. And that was kind of what got me going, sent me off into this music. Anyway, I was living in Denver at the time-it was the summer of '68 and Wes was going to play as part of this traveling Newport Jazz Festival program, which came to Red Rocks outside of Denver. So I got my ticket. I was going to go with my dad to the concert and I was so excited about seeing Wes that I didn't even really think about who else was playing. As it turned out, Wes died a couple weeks before the gig, but I went to the concert anyway and got to hear Monk play and Cannonball and Dionne Warwick and Gary Burton's band, which I didn't know anything about at the time. But there was this guitar player in Gary's band who just totally freaked me out. I had never heard anything like that. And from that experience I kind of got way into Larry, really through all that Gary Burton stuff. I think I had all those Gary Burton records and I also got a Best of Chico Hamilton Impulse record that Larry played on. So for me, he was just a huge influence. As a player he was right at the balancing point between rock and jazz.

And he was completely obsessed with Wes too as a developing player, but also hugely affected by the Beatles and Hendrix.

And that's what I love about him-that tone. It's right where the tone starts to split apart. He's playing a Gibson Super 400, mostly just coming from the amp. He's feeding back, but it was more of a natural sounding guitar being kind of pushed past where it was supposed to be-in a weird way like Charlie Christian. Part of Charlie's sound came from the fact that he was pushing everything, the amp and everything, a little bit harder. And I love that. With Larry I also loved the fact that a lot of times he was sort of over the top, that he took it farther than maybe you were supposed to. But that's what you had to do. I'd see him in the early '70s with Eleventh House when he was playing with Alphonse Mouzon and that was like totally amazing. I remember one time seeing him at the Jazz Workshop in Boston-I never saw anybody do this before. He's playing and it's really loud and he had like a Twin Reverb or something and at one point during his solo he just took his hand and rubbed it across all the controls knobs so that everything went to 10 in one sweep of his arm. It was like totally way off the deep end-but that's how we get where we get.

Track 2 Gene Bertoncini "'Round Midnight" (from Acoustic Romance, Sons of Sound)
Bertoncini, nylon string acoustic guitar; Rufus Reid, bass; Akira Tana, drums; Thelonious Monk, composer. Recorded in 1992.

I really don't know who it is. I know this is "'Round Midnight" and it sounds like a nylon-string guitar. It's a beautiful interpretation. He really has gotten deep into the harmony of the piece. I've heard Howard Alden do some things like this but I don't think this is him.

Oh, man! I can't believe it. He crossed my mind but I didn't want to say it. And I can't believe it because he actually came to my gig last week and I met him. That was actually the first thing that went through my mind, but I haven't heard him enough to know for sure, I'm embarrassed to say. Now I really gotta check him out. I wish I would've known that this was him. He's such a great player and this was a beautiful interpretation of that Monk piece.

Track 3 David Tronzo "Stars Fell on Alabama" (from Brass Hand,
Tronzo, dobro slide guitar; Stomu Takeishi, acoustic bass guitar, whistling; Kenny Wollesen, drums; Parish/Perkins, composer. Recorded in 2003.

Wow, this is great! [After a long pause] Is it Tronzo?

Oh, wow, that's Stomu? Is he playing an acoustic bass? It sounds incredible-really fat and cool. I've heard Stomu with Henry Threadgill's band and with Cuong Vu's band, and I just love his whole thing, but I've never heard him play in this kind of context before. He's killing on this! And I don't think I've ever heard Tronzo play that National guitar before; I've always heard him play electric guitar. But it was still obviously him. I don't know anybody else that can do what he does on the guitar. Yeah, I gotta get this one. I like the sound of the whole recording and I really like the starkness of everything. And Kenny's the perfect guy for this trio. It's weird, I'm with Kenny all the time and he never tells what else he's doing. He should've told me about this one. This is really great.

Track 4 Jim Hall "Scrapple From the Apple" (from Live, A&M/Horizon)
Hall, guitar; Don Thompson, bass; Terry Clarke, drums; Charlie Parker, composer. Recorded in 1975

It's Jim Hall. It's "Scrapple From the Apple" and it's with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke. This is one of those records that kind of passed me by. I heard it once a long time ago and it's one of the ones I never actually checked out thoroughly.

It always sounds like I'm gushing about Jim Hall but he's just so amazing to me. He never plays anything worked out. It's like the melodies and the lines that he's playing are like a tree growing. He'll play something and it'll cause him to play something else and it just keeps developing from there, like branches of a tree growing. And I always hear Charlie Christian in Jim's playing. There's just so much music and history in his playing, but it's not some kind of spectacular worked-out thing. The music is generated in the moment by itself. It has this natural evolution rather than being formulated in any way. He's always playing a little bit past what he knows, sort of, so it's got this organic momentum to it. You can hear him-he'll play a phrase and then that phrase will mean, "Oh, I gotta play this next phrase," rather than falling into stuff that he's figured out already, which is so easy to do. And then his whole articulation and the feel of his eighth notes, the rhythmic momentum of when he plays a melodic line-it's all so beautiful. There are guys like Jimmy Raney or Billy Bean who have this sort of flowing articulation down, but they all have their own individual way of doing it. I'm thinking mainly of guys who played a lot with horn players. Jim talked a lot about when he first played with Jimmy Giuffre and spent so much time trying to figure out ways to play a phrase. Rather than just picking all the notes he would figure out a way to work out the fingering on the fingerboard so that the slurs would match the tonguing and the slurring of the saxophone. Anyway, I hate that every time somebody brings up Jim Hall I start gushing about how great he is-but he is.

This was recorded in the summer of '75. Is that shortly after you studied with him?

Well, I studied with Jim in '71 and then there was a long time where I didn't see him. It was almost 10 years later when I ran into him on the street in New York. And he remembered me. I couldn't believe it. Soon after, I made my first record on ECM and sent it to him and he really liked that. And then we started playing a little bit together after that and we've maintained a friendship over the years.

Track 5 Screaming Headless Torsos "Blue in Green" (from Live!!, Fuzelicious Morsels)
Dave Fiuczynski, guitar; Fima Ephron, bass; Gene Lake, drums, Daniel Sadownick, percussion; Dean Bowman, vocals; Bill Evans, composer. Recorded in 1996

[Responding to the solo guitar intro] Wow! That was pretty amazing. Man, I have no idea who this is but I do know it's "Blue in Green."

I've heard Fiuczynski a little bit, and I actually played with him on a Mike Gibbs recording from the early '90s (Big Music, ACT). But I haven't heard him enough to really know his playing. But he's really amazing and totally unique. For a moment I thought it was slide guitar but he's really got that whammy bar articulation down, where it's really in the harmonic fabric of the tune. That's great. And I like when the band came in on that reggae vibe, those kind of crunchy chords were really cool. He was really nailing the rhythm on that.

Track 6 Joel Harrison "This Land Is Your Land" (from Free Country, ACT/High Note)
Harrison, fretless guitar; Dave Binney, alto sax; Rob Thomas, violin; Uri Caine, piano; Sean Conly, bass; Allison Miller, drums; Woody Guthrie, composer. Recorded in 2002/2003

Is this another slide guitarist? Or is that a fretless guitar? I'm stumped. I thought I might have an idea of who it was but when the piano came in that totally threw me.

Oh, I actually have this CD but I didn't even recognize this. And I totally didn't recognize the melody either at first. This is terrible because I actually have this record and I heard some of it on the radio but I never heard this track before. This is another record that is in my pile of things I just haven't listened to yet. But what you played here sounds great.

Joel is another guy, like yourself, who is plumbing the depths of American roots music, going way back to some of these traditional folk melodies as a source for new arranging, which is something that you've spearheaded in recent years.

It's funny that I'm perceived that way because I don't think of myself as spearheading anything. Listen to Keith Jarrett's first trio record with Charlie [Haden] and Paul [Motian], there's a version of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" on there. Or listen to Gary Burton's band with Larry Coryell playing Dylan's "I Want You" or Sonny Rollins playing "I'm an Old Cowhand." That kind of thing has always been around. I guess it's just because all this time goes by and people forget, but I'm just sort of copying what Gary Burton did or Keith Jarrett or Sonny Rollins did. It just seems like more of a jazz thing to do. And so much of that music was originally played on the guitar, so for a guitarist to go back and check it out it's like opening the floodgates on all these old tunes.

Track 7 Lenny Breau "It Could Happen to You" (from The Hallmark Sessions, Art of Life)
Breau, guitar; Levon Helm, drums; Rick Danko, bass; Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, composers. Recorded in 1961.

Is this that Lenny Breau record that has just come out? I actually just bought this the other day but I haven't listened to it yet. The tune is "It Could Happen to You." I just saw this in a record store and had to have it. And it's so cool to hear him playing a Gibson ES-125, which I've been playing lately-that exact guitar. I love hearing him with that kind of a tone. The arpeggiated thing he's doing is amazing. Plus, because he's a finger-style player-when he's playing the chords you can hear a definition in all the notes so it sounds more like a piano than a guitar. You don't hear the strum, it's like the notes just pop out individually. I guess it's his fingernails doing that because the sound is so clear.

Wow! It's amazing that his thing was so fully formed at such a young age. I think he was 20 at the time of these recordings. That's so weird because he's doing the same sort of guitar architecture that he did in his later stuff. Maybe he got more into harmonics and even more stuff started happening for him but still the whole sound and everything is all right there. It's weird how some people just kind of sound the way they sound pretty much from the beginning. Was he as a little kid doing gigs and freaking people out? Boy, Chet Atkins must've freaked out when he heard Lenny play for the first time. It's crazy how good he is!

Copywrited by Jazziz magazine
Before and After from the May 2004
Return To The Bill Frisell Discography Main Page