Born of a Monterey Jazz Festival commission in 2012, Bill Frisell's Big Sur features an hour of original music, 19 compositions that explicitly reference the coastal-mountain environment and evoke the remote and pastoral setting with musical blends of chamber jazz, country, classical, folk, and rock. Joined by violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts, and drummer Rudy Royston, the group premiered the music at the festival in September 2012. Six months later, the quintet recorded Big Sur at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California.
“It was extraordinary. You’re surrounded by forest, and there’s a trail that you can walk to the end of the bluff, where the land just drops off and you see the whole panorama of the Big Sur coast and the Pacific Ocean,” says Frisell. “That’s what I woke up to every morning. It was incredible.” When he wasn’t writing in his cabin, Frisell found himself meandering out the trail toward the lookout, settling onto one of the benches with his pad of music paper, and writing down whatever melodies popped into his head. “I filled up pages and pages,” he says. “The music just kept coming.”
Shortly before the Monterey Jazz Festival, Frisell returned to Glen Deven, joined by his band mates. “When Jenny and Eyvind and Hank and Rudy came to rehearse, they got a feel for where I’d been when I was writing. That’s really when we became the Big Sur Quintet - and when the music came to life.”