Two years after issuing his acclaimed trio album Valentine, GRAMMY Award-winning guitarist and composer Bill Frisell returns with Four, a stunning meditation on loss, renewal, and those mysterious inventions of friendship. Frisell’s third album for Blue Note Records since signing with the label in 2019 offers new interpretations of previously recorded originals as well as nine new tunes. The session brings together artists of independent spirits and like minds: Blue Note stablemates Gerald Clayton on piano and Johnathan Blake on drums, and longtime collaborator Greg Tardy on saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet. “This combination of people had been floating around in the back of my mind since before the pandemic,” says the Brooklyn-based artist. During the lockdown, like many artist, Frisellturned inward and found a renewed sense of purpose for his musicianship. “It was traumatic not to be with people,” he said, “so I picked up my guitar, and my guitar saved me.”
Because much of the repertoire developed at a time of profound loss, the record’s tinged with sadness. The opening track was written for Frisell’s childhood friend Alan Woodward who died quite recently, “Dear Old Friend,” Clayton and Blake ruminate together on “Claude Utley,” named for Frisell’s friend who died this past year, and also Ron Miles, whom Frisell dedicates the entire album and call him his musical soulmate.
“He’s my closest, longest brother-friend,” says Frisell. “You could say he’s not here, but he’s totally here because so much of what I’m playing comes from my times spent with him. And then that gets passed on to someone else. That’s actual tangible proof that these people are still here.”