FEATURE > BILL FRISELL
about 30 albums with. I haven’t done that
many with Tucker, but we’ve known each
other for around 25 years. Floratone is like a
band, but for those guys, their instrument is
the studio. This is a way to let them go full
tilt into what they do. At the same time, I’m
going full tilt into what Matt and I do.
Did you try to steer the Floratone II sessions
into a different direction than Floratone?
I didn’t. Lee and Tucker were the ones
that made those decisions about what was
going to be on it, so much of the direction is really pointed by what they chose.
I’m not sure; I guess I’d have to ask them
if they actually consciously thought about
trying to make it different.
Did you or Matt present any guidelines
like tempo, key, or feel to each other
before starting a jam?
There was no discussion at all, which was
great. It was like, bam, and we just start
playing. There was no stress or anything
and it was really fun. Matt is like an idea
machine—every second something amazing
would come out of him.
Photo by Kevin Dooley
98 PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2012
You’re also involved in the process again
later, right? You compose string and horn
parts to be layered, and you and Matt
also add more guitars and drums.
It happens in all these layers. It starts with
just improvising, then editing, and then we
go back and start adding more guitars and
drums. I wrote those string and horn parts
and then they went to L.A. I wasn’t there
for that either. That was weird, too, because
I think the last thing I did was write those
melodies. After we recorded that, Matt put
on some more drums and they did some
more editing. They went to L.A. and Jon
Brion put some stuff on and Mike Elizondo
put bass on. And then they mixed the
whole thing and I didn’t hear it until it was
completely finished. It was kind of far out.
It must be a trip to hear the final product.
I won’t even remember what we played and
then a couple months later we’ll get together
and they’ll have this thing whittled down to
an hour’s worth of music. I think at one point,
even a year went by without me hearing anything. It was like, “Wow, where did all that
come from? I don’t even remember playing it.”
When you heard the final outcome, at
any point, did you think to yourself,
“That’s not what I had in mind at all?”
No. I didn’t have any preconceptions about
what I wanted it to be. I just hoped that it
would be cool. It was really fun and surprising when I would hear it after all that time.
So when you were improvising, you
didn’t have any specific harmonic frameworks in mind that you expected them
to later work with?
No, not really. There are certain things
that happen maybe a little bit later in the
writing process where there are harmonies
that were more intentional. But absolutely
nothing was figured out beforehand. I
didn’t think, “Oh, I’m going to play this
chord progression or that.” There was
really no thought.
Considering your jazz background,
where mastery of harmony is a requisite, and the fact that you’re still currently playing difficult, chord-change-intensive Coltrane tunes like “ 26-2” and
“Moment’s Notice,” you probably can’t
un-know what you know. How are you
able to let go of your harmonic awareness and just play freely?
I think that having played those kinds of
tunes definitely has a huge impact on what
my instincts are about—I’m not thinking
that way but I know it. It’s not a conscious
thing. No matter how abstract I get or
whether I’m thinking about chords or not,
having had the experience of playing that
kind of harmony definitely had an effect
on me. That’s why I keep playing that
song “ 26-2,” to get it to the point where
it’s so deeply ingrained that it feels the
same as if I’m just completely spontaneously making stuff up.
This brings to mind Mike Stern. I played
“Giant Steps” thousands and thousands and
thousands of times, over and over again with
him—just the two of us. We would practice
that tune or “Moment’s Notice.” He definitely took it to an incredibly deep level of
understanding. I did a lot of that stuff with
him and it was an amazing time.
The multiple layers on the tracks are like
a jigsaw puzzle and it’s fun trying to figure out which part came first. For example, in “Parade,” there’s a short guitar
solo. It starts off with the same two notes
the ensemble plays earlier in a repeating