Nobody understands the gestalt approach to making music better than guitarist (and former Denverite) Bill Frisell, one the great original improvisers of our time and a recording artist who changes partners more frequently than a square-dancer. But it's not that he's fickle: Frisell is just a dreamer, a musical sponge who thrives on a fluid combination of interaction and eclecticism.
"There's an infinite ocean of stuff out there to try out," Frisell says simply of his career, a continuing twenty-year segue of ensembles and experiments that's never finished -- and most likely never will be. The latest link is Bill Frisell and the Intercontinentals, a world-fusion meeting that originally included Malian percussionist Sidiki Camara, Brazilian musician Vinicius Cantu´ria and Macedonian oud player Christos Govetas. The Intercontinentals are a product of what was to be a one-time gig at a Seattle music festival featuring Frisell with the core international trio. The group went on to record a CD, with added instrumental textures provided by a couple of Frisell alumni he calls his "ringers": pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz and violinist Jenny Scheinman. Now on tour, the ensemble will perform Tuesday at the Boulder Theater.
Frisell himself is a bit mysterious about how and why he picks people to work with, but it seems to be a kind of mutual-admiration club. He took that path with every member of the Intercontinentals, although he admits there were special challenges. Camara, Cantu´ria and Govetas were all at the top of the list of people with whom he was interested in playing. "I knew I could deal with each one, but I didn't know how they'd all deal with each other," he says. As it turned out, the combination felt good, but writing for that fusion of world sensibilities became more complicated in the studio. Still, it appears to work: While the new album may feature less of Frisell's trademark humorous voicings, it's an organic musical compendium that's truly hybridized without losing the old loopy, poignant Frisell aura.
And, of course, nothing is forever with Frisell in the driver's seat. "I don't have any organized plan. I still love change, but it makes me nervous," Frisell says, and you just know that's a good thing.