Fred Frith

In the '60s and '70s, much (if not most) contemporary improvisation was jazz-based. That began to change in the '80s, when a significant number of rock musicians began exploring the possibilities of free improvisation and new classical forms. Fred Frith was one of the most prominent figures in the new free improvisation community, and continued to do vital work well into the 21st century. Co-founder of the underground British band Henry Cow in 1968 (and the post-HC group Art Bears), composer/improviser/guitarist Frith moved to the U.S. in the late '70s, where he began associations with such New York-based experimental musicians as cellist Tom Cora, harpist Zeena Parkins, saxophonist John Zorn, and percussionist Ikue Mori. Frith lived in New York for 14 years; some of his well-known ventures in that time included Massacre (with Bill Laswell and Fred Maher), Skeleton Crew (with Cora and Parkins), and his sextet Keep the Dog. In the '80s, Frith's compositional activities increased; he began writing for dance, film, and theater, and for such ensembles as the Rova Saxophone Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Asko Ensemble, and his own Guitar Quartet. Primarily known as an improvising guitarist, Frith has also performed on bass (with Zorn's Naked City and French Frith Kaiser Thompson) and violin (with Lars Hollmer's Looping Home Orchestra, among others). Frith has played on albums by the Residents, Brian Eno, Amy Denio, and René Lussier, to name just a few, and he was the subject of Step Across the Border, a documentary film by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel. By 2000, Frith was a professor of composition at Mills College in Oakland, California, and he also teaches at the Musik Akademie in Basel, Switzerland. He continued to release a bevy of albums, including Eleventh Hour in 2005. In 2007, Frith began the year by releasing Impur and The Happy End Problem on ReR, followed them with Sugar Factory and a live album (recorded at the N.Y.C. venue The Stone) on the Tzadik label, and finished the year with Cutter Heads with Chris Brown on Intakt. Frith was less prolific in 2008 but nonetheless released the fine To Sail, to Sail on Tzadik. He picked up the pace in 2009, as Still Urban and The Big Picture saw issue on Intakt. He continued with three releases in 2010, including Dictée/Liber Novus and Eye to Ear, Vol. 3, which appeared on Tzadik, and Live in Japan for ReR. In addition to his solo releases, Frith performed and recorded with a rich variety of collaborators, including the groups Cosa Brava, Death Ambient, and the Fred Frith Trio, as well as individual artists Evan Parker, John Butcher, Darren Johnston, Lotte Anker, and Hans Koch (the latter of whom recorded the 2017 album You Are Here with Frith). ~ Chris Kelsey

Related Artists

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.