Longform

Bill Frisell Returns to East High School, Site of His First Jazz Guitar Performance

The first time Bill Frisell played a jazz tune on guitar in public was at a talent show during his junior year at East High School, in 1967. He wasn't even the featured performer; the school's band director, Vincent Tagliavore, asked him to learn Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' on Sunset" to accompany some girls who were doing a dance routine to the song. Tagliavore thought it would be a lot cooler if they played live rather than having the girls dance to the record. And so began the career of one of the planet's most well-regarded jazz guitarists. Frisell hadn't even listened to much jazz before that performance. He grew up listening to surf music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, "and then blues -- and by the time I got there, it was James Brown and the Temptations, all mixed together," he says. "This was before Jimi Hendrix and all that. So ['Bumpin' on Sunset'] was like an atomic explosion in my brain that led me, really, into the world of jazz."

See also: Denver-Bred Ron Miles and Bill Frisell Are Among the Greatest Collaborators in Jazz

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon