Staff Pick: Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet paints with sound

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From the November 28, 2013 edition

Duke Ellington’s often described as “a painter with sound” for the way his compositions evoke images, often blending colors, particularly indigo, into vivid soundscapes that transport listeners to a world at once familiar and slightly surreal. Guitarist and composer Bill Frisell is a similar painter with sound, though his color palette, particularly on this year’s Big Sur, conjures earth tones to reflect the rugged coastlines and terrain of California’s infamously influential Western landscape.

The album, which was written during a Big Sur residency commissioned by the Monterery Jazz Festival, blends chamber jazz, country, classical and folk music for a unique vision of Americana that’s as meandering as it is sharply focused. It recalls, at times, a weekend drive down the coast, a mind lost in thoughts and inspiration, but attune to the passing pastoral scenery. Tuesday’s performance should arouse all that and more.

Photo by Monica Frisell

Bill Frisell, front and center, with his Big Sur Quintet.