World Premiere Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Dennis Crouch, and Don Heffington Not So Fast: The Music of Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant

This Saturday February 26th at 7pm, the Wexner center welcomes guitarist Bill Frisell at the World Premiere of Not So Fast: The Music of Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant. Guitarist Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, his frequent collaborator on pedal steel, lap steel, and Dobro, last appeared here for the world premiere of Disfarmer, their suite of music enhanced by multimedia visuals that illuminated the work of outsider photographer Mike Disfarmer and his subjects from rural Arkansas in the 1940s. Sparked by a suggestion from the Wexner Center’s Director of Performing Arts Charles Helm and co-commissioned by the Wex, Disfarmer went on to earn critical accolades worldwide, touring internationally and was released on CD by Nonesuch Records.

Frisell and Leisz now return with bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Don Heffington to premiere another Wex-commissioned piece that has its origins in a musical introduction from Helm, in this case to the timeless country jazz of pedal steel guitarist Speedy West and his guitar partner, Jimmy Bryant. Although many music fans view jazz and country and western music as rolling on distinctly separate tracks, the two genres have met at many intersections, and Frisell is one of today’s most prominent exponents of their melding trajectories. The great Territory bands (regional jazz big bands) of the 1930s and 1940s, like Walter Page’s Oklahoma City Blue Devils with Count Basie, had counterparts in such western swing bands as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. In the post-WWII period, when big bands were on the wane, small bebop combos were on the rise with players trading fast phrases in intricate and harmonically complex tunes. At the same time, compact groups of pickers like Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant in California crafted equally virtuosic instrumental interplay with lightning-quick licks and cleverly nimble compositional turns.

Not So Fast features Frisell and Leisz’s own arrangements of Speedy and Jimmy’s unique instrumental country jazz, which was a highlight of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s popular weekly TV show in the fifties and was heard frequently on radio across the country. In keeping with Frisell’s stylistic imperative to let all things unfold in their own time, however, we’ve chosen the phrase Not So Fast to ironically foreground how he will put his own stamp on this classic batch of tunes aided by his band of first-rate collaborators. Be there so you can say you heard it first.

More about the show at the Wexner Center Website:

Leave a Reply