Posted June 24, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Veteran Guitarist Bill Frisell’s Trio to Make Its Recording Debut

Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell

Veteran guitarist Bill Frisell’s new album, Valentine, marks the debut recording of his trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston. It’ll be released on Aug. 14 on Blue Note Records. 

In advance of the album’s release, Blue Note has issued the album’s first single, a cover of the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”

“I’ve been playing the song for years, and I’m going to keep playing it till there is no need anymore,” says Frisell in a press release. “I can’t help but hope that day will come.”

Produced by his longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and recorded by Tucker Martine at Flora Recording in Portland, OR, Valentine features 13 songs, including Frisell originals new and old, jazz standards, traditional songs and covers. The album explores the trio format and the relationship that exists between these three musicians after years of touring.

“This album is all about Rudy [Royston] and Thomas [Morgan] and the musical relationship I have with them,” says Frisell. “We’ve played a lot for a number of years, but there was no evidence of it, so I really wanted to have a document of it, if only to show that it’s real and not this magical thing that I’ve imagined in my fantasies.”

In the album’s liner notes, author David Hajdu writes that Valentine “is not only a gem-cut specimen of the trio art, but a vivid demonstration of the capacity of masters like Frisell, in the manner of Ellington, to push themselves, their collaborators, and their audiences to unexpected heights through the ever-restless force of their creativity.”

Townsend, who has produced the majority of Frisell’s albums over the past 30 years, says the musicians possess “a deep sense of structure.”

 “They can elaborate but never move too far away from what they need to do to serve the song,” he says. “This trio is a sterling example of balancing that architectural sensibility with the spirit of spontaneity at the same time.”

“There’s the physical mathematics of a trio. There is so much strength in it – it can lean to one side, but it will still stay up,” Frisell explains. “The music is about everyone trusting each other to the point where everybody’s in the state of mind where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and you feel safe enough to try anything. It’s like when you’re dreaming, and you’re on the edge of a cliff, and you know on a certain level that it’s a dream, so you can just jump off. With this music, we could do that. All three of us could take big chances, and we’d always be rescued. It’s about the trust that makes risks possible.”

Valentine is available for pre-order now on vinyl, CD and digital formats.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].