One of America’s most revered jazz guitarist, Bill Frisell, is melding music with art at a unique performance that combines music from his latest 1950s and ’60s inspired album with the psychedelic art of the Joshua Light Show.
Playing on April 24 at the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts, the show will feature the brilliant guitar strokes of this imaginative musician as he plays songs from his 2014 release “Guitar in the Space Age!”. The concurrently playing Joshua Light Show will give audience members a chance to experience the sights of magical, analog light projections that, in the 1960s, opened for artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who and Chuck Berry.
“For me the music and some of the visual things that go with the music are so much about letting your imagination go and…trying to make things better and beautiful,” said Frisell.
Frisell went back to his roots for “Guitar in the Space Age!” by visiting the American electric guitar songs that first inspired him to play. What resulted is interpretations of 1950s and ’60s songs by artists including Pete Seeger, Joe Meek, Mel London, The Byrds, The Astronauts, Chet Atkins, Brian Wilson, and Junior Wells as well as some original Frisell songs. Frisell says the concert is expected to include not only songs from the album, but also moments of spontaneity.
“I feel lucky to have an audience that’s willing to go along. There’s an element of risk and I think, in that, there could be a big reward,” said Frisell. “Rather than just playing it safe…there’s a lot of improvisation in what we do and I think that makes it hopefully more exciting and interesting for the audience to follow along and check out what happens.”
Adding to the fluid spontaneity of artist expression is the inclusion of the Joshua Light Show, which was founded by Joshua White and formed by a small group of artists in 1967. Now 48 years later, the show is seeing a rebirth of their legendary shifting array of colored oils summoning wonderfully morphing figures.
Frisell, who grew up in Denver in the 1960s, frequented the Family Dog Club where he watched in awe as California bands played with what during that era was described as psychedelic liquid lights of the Joshua Light Show.
“I saw so many bands that had those [Joshua Light Show] guys doing the light show and I thought ‘wow.’ I never dreamed I’d have a chance to play music with that stuff going on,” said Frisell. “It’s something super exciting for me.”
The inclusion of the light show will give the concert a fully channeled 1960s vibe by pairing both the sights and sounds of the age.
In discussing his musical artistry and exploration, Frisell describes it as an ongoing cycle of new beginnings.
“Every time I play it feels like I have my whole life behind me…but then at the same time, every time I play it feels like I’m at the very beginning of the music,” said Frisell. “What’s out in front of you and what you haven’t yet done, it’s so huge. So it feels like I’m starting over again every time I play. It’s overwhelming, but it’s a wonderful thing too. You could never finish it so you’re always at this point of beginning. Hopefully the audience will be open to that way of thinking. I’m really excited.”
Take advantage of this one-of-a-kind concert that will stimulate both your musical and visual senses. The show is playing at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 24 at 8pm. Tickets are $24-49 for adults/$12.50-24.50 for children under 18. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit mondaviarts.org.
Photo courtesy of Songtone. Credit: Paul Moore.