A Crash Course in Jazz

Guitarist Bill Frisell constructs a playlist for someone who wants to dive into the genre.
  • Transcript


Question: What recordings are essential to a crash course in jazz? 

Bill Frisell: Oh, there’s so many. That’s the thing. It’s incredible how much music there is, you know? If you just follow one person, it’ll lead you to... like it’s all connected somehow. I was in high school and my band director gave me a Wes Montgomery album; he wanted me to learn this piece on the guitar for a talent show. And so he gave me this Wes Montgomery record and that was a beginning for me of becoming aware of that music. And it was Wes Montgomery with Ron Carter playing bass, right? Recently I’ve been blessed to be able to play with him; I can’t believe I get to play with some of these people. 

But, so there’s this first record that I really listened to that’s a jazz record and there’s Ron Carter’s playing bass. So then I go, "Well I’m gonna get another jazz record." So I get a Kenny Burrell record and there’s... Ron Carter’s playing bass on that one. And then I get a Miles Davis record and Ron Carter’s playing bass on that one. Then Ron plays with Miles Davis and Miles Davis played with John Coltrane and then John Coltrane played with Duke Ellington, and Duke Ellington played with Louis Armstrong. I don’t know what to tell somebody. If you just start... just listen to anything great. Listen to Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, any of those guys. It’s easy to find out who they are... they’ll all lead you off into all these unbelievable... it’s more than a tree, it’s like a forest of all the seeds coming down from this giant tree and it’s amazing.

Recorded on May 5, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown