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Bill Frisell: The ECM Years

By Published: April 26, 2011
Finally, while he's left working with him behind, Frisell has plenty of good things to say about engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, who has collaborated with Eicher on so many classic ECM recordings. "He's amazing," Frisell claims. "He's so transparent that you hardly even know he's there. Everything seems to be ready to go—you never have to think about where the mic is, or are they ready. He's like this invisible force, and, for me, that's the coolest thing. As an engineer, there's this transparency with him; you can get away from thinking about it being recorded. He's not always saying, 'Can you do this or that?'; you just start playing, and he's always ready. He's always out of the way; sometimes you don't even have to use headphones. He's super quiet, and it's good that they have him and Manfred—they don't say anything, they just know what they want. I love the guy."

So much has happened with Frisell since this interview took place: 15 recordings as a leader/co-leader and far more as a guest, ranging from Norah Jones
Norah Jones
Norah Jones
to Robin Holcomb, Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
1930 - 2013
to Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
, Cuong Vu
Cuong Vu
Cuong Vu
to Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
, and David Sylvian
David Sylvian
David Sylvian
to Lucinda Williams. Nothing seems out of reach for this quietly intrepid guitarist, who's in a position, now, to play with almost anyone he pleases, despite remaining somehow in awe of that very fact. And, of course, with Paul Motian returning to the label in 2004, after a lengthy hiatus, Frisell's name is, once more, appearing on recordings with the ECM imprint. It's hard to say where he'd be today, were it not for that one session in 1979, that began to put him on the map and, more importantly, connected him with so many people—musicians, producers, managers and more—many with whom he continues to work to this day. But there's little doubt that, without the opportunities that arose from the 17 sessions he did for ECM over the course of two decades, he'd not be where he is today.

Bill Frisell's Discography for ECM

Paul Motian, Time and Time Again (2007)

Paul Motian, I Have the Room Above Her (2005)

Kenny Wheeler, Angel Song (1997)

Jazzensemble des Hessischen Rundfunks, Atmospheric Conditions Permitting (1995)

Gavin Byrars, After the Requiem (1991)

Bill Frisell Band, Lookout For Hope (1988)

The Paul Bley Quartet, The Paul Bley Quartet (1988)

Marc Johnson's Bass Desires, Second Sight (1987)

Paul Bley, Fragments (1986)

Marc Johnson, Bass Desires (1986)

Bill Frisell, Rambler (1985)

Paul Motian Trio, It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago (1985)

Jan Garbarek Group, Wayfarer (1983)

Bill Frisell, In Line (1983)

Eberhard Weber, Later That Evening (1982)

Paul Motian Band, Psalm (1982)

Jan Garbarek Group, Paths, Prints (1982)

Arild Andersen, Molde Concert (1982)

Eberhard Weber, Fluid Rustle (1979)

Photo Credits

Page 1, Bill Frisell Band, 1987, clockwise from left: Kermit Driscoll, Hank Roberts, Joey Baron, Bill Frisell (seated): Robyn Stoutenburg, Courtesy of ECM Records

Page 3: Robyn Stoutenburg, Courtesy of ECM Records

Page 5:Regina Stetter, Courtesy of ECM Records

Page 7: Ralph Quinice, Courtesy of ECM Records

Page 8: Arne Reimer, Courtesy of ECM Records

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