I'd like to say that my first Bill Frisell record was In Line, his ECM debut. That would fit in nicely with my completist/chronological streak of music acquisition. The thing is, I'm pretty sure that's not how it went at all. The first Frisell guitar to hit my ears, whether I knew it at the time or not (I'm thinkin' "not"), came from Eberhard Weber's Fluid Rustle. That record, along with Chick Corea & Gary Burton's mega-stellar Live in Zurich, touched off my love affair with the ECM sound.
The first Frisell record I purchased was, without a doubt, Before We Were Born. This was pre-Internet, so I'm not sure how I found out about it. I suppose it could have been an article in Downbeat or something. It's just as likely that I found it during one of my many flip-through-every-disc-in-the-bins excursions. Anyway, the music must have blown me away. The guy has a way of combining bits of traditional jazz with folk, blues and otherworldly noise to create, well…his own thing. I'm telling you, one moment everything flows along normally and then Frisell reaches up to rip a hole in the lining between the sky and the rest of the universe and all of this weird shit pours out. Like the most surreal parts of a dream, it all seems perfectly reasonable.
What happened after Before We Were Born was of course another chapter in the story of my groaning and sagging CD shelves: In Line, Rambler, Lookout For Hope, Smash & Scatteration…and on it went. Hey, some people eat too much, other listen too much. The musical gluttons out there know what I'm talking about.
This being the Internet age and all, I happened to receive my copy of History, Mystery from one of my reviewer buddies (Thanks, man!) , all wrapped in digital swaddling clothes (don't worry Bill, next trip to the store and a physical copy will be mine). I sat around for a while, letting the tunes sink into my stress-addled head.
It's not often that I'd recommend a two-disc set to the neophyte, but this just might be the place to start. The range of styles dips into nearly every segment of Frisell's thing. Even though the music came from a couple of different projects, the collection taken as a whole feels very cohesive. It's almost like a career retrospective presented with new music.
So, you can start right here…or maybe check out that Eberhard Weber album first. I'm warning you though, there appears to be no cure for this addiction.