And now… Bill Frisell

Here’s jazz guitar player and composer Bill Frisell performing on his Klein guitar in this YouTube video of a July 3, 1993 Warsaw, Poland live performance. Joining Bill are Kermit Driscoll on bass and Joey Baron on drums. The composition is Amarillo Barbados:

Bill Frisell’s playing on the Nashville album inspired reader PJ Doland to make a Klein Guitar Replica – a lovely swamp ash body instrument with a Steinberger Synapse bridge.

12 Responses to “And now… Bill Frisell”

  1. Bill Frisell has always had good taste in guitars. He is a truly unique talent. That is the first Klien that I’ve seen with a tele neck pickup, which by the way is my favorite guitar tone.

    1. It’s been a real pleasure digging up videos of guitar players who employ ergonomic guitars. The process has been a real musical education for me. I’ve exposed myself to music and styles I might not otherwise have heard as a mainly rock and blues sort of guy. Bill Frisell’s music has definitely been added to my listening rotation.

  2. Bill is a class-act in guitars, a bundle of creative talent 🙂

    1. Welcome to the blog and thanks for the comment!

  3. Well, hrmmm…over at the resurrected Klein guitar newgruop at Yahoo, according to one user, Bill has sold both of his Kleins. Earlier posts reported that Bill had some “issues with Klein”, of which none was disclosed.

    A qualified guess is that it had to do with endorsements. Or discount negotiations. A one man shop has no endorsements and very little advertising budget slack to give people a large “off” the street price. The only one reasonably famous still using it and telling that he does, in public, is Dave Torn.

    I am not so sure, wether Bill makes better or worse music with or wihtout a Klein. I for one, couldn’t care less if BilL Frisell, or Tim Miller uses a Klein, they makes great music anyway. I can’t hear it on the records anyway. One can hear uses of Trans Trem perhaps but that could be a Steinberger as well.

    While it’s fun to see YouTube videos of folks that USED to play Kleins or other ergonomic guitars, it would be more appropriate to show people who are still using them today. I have yet to see any video of Michael Hedges – or live footage – using the large Harp Klein guitar. I really wonder what happened to that Klein Harp guitar, if it’s still in the family or not. If it’s on sale.

    1. I agree with you Mats – I’d rather see folks who are actually playing them now. However, there’s still great value in pointing out that we don’t need to be slaves to tradition to play great music. Too many players are caught up in needing to slavishly emulate their heroes and this is an opportunity to illustrate that these are real instruments and not mere curiosities.

      And, that’s where guitarists like Tim Miller, Roger Placer, David Torn and Marc Why take over. They’re out there using these newer tools and showing us that we aren’t compromising artistic vision by playing something other than the typical Fender or Gibson. You’ve already seen videos from several of these players and I’m working on obtaining others as well – and not just for the Forshage and the Klein. 🙂 More to come.

      1. I probably should not be listed in a sentence with ANY of those fine players, but ignoring that detail… A Klein is an interesting beast because at the end of the day, the thing does have a defining SOUND in my opinion. And I suppose some guys get on board for a while and then move on to other sounds, ergonomics notwithstanding.

        That’s why the Forshage instruments are compelling, because the only thing it shares with the Klein is a basic shape. It ends there. It’s got a chunky jazz guitar neck, it’s mostly hollow, it sports wood in the tone in a big way, and obviously it’s built to order so the sky is the limit electronics-wise.

        I guess the point is that one must not only like the shapes and geometry, but one must embrace the *voices* of these instruments as a means of personal expression.

      2. All great points, Roger – except for your self-assessment. 🙂

        The voice is an important aspect but it strikes me that, particularly among rock guitarists, a large part of it is the image of being associated with a particular guitar hero. By the time most guitar players are running their signals through effects and processing, the instrument’s original voice is gone.

        So to that end, I think these videos still serve a valuable purpose in getting the word out about alternatives. In the process, maybe someone will be influenced by a different kind of guitar hero and another kind of guitar…

      3. Oh, there are so many stereotypes…! Of course there’s the guitar hero thing and the need to own a Strat or LP in exactly the configuration as so and so. But have a look on the “Small Company Luthiers” forum at (where I’ve seen at least a couple of you guys post). All the dudes there are ga-ga over the latest quilt-laden, natural-wood-bound, sculpted, arched, inlayed, signed-and-numbered “masterpiece.”

        And despite being beautiful and original in their aesthetics, these guitars are mostly more of the same old thing… maple over mahogany, 2 buckers, double cutaway, etc.

        These axes aren’t owned by rock stars, so the hero worship factor isn’t there. It seems to be partly about individuality and (to be blunt) partly about whose dic… er, I mean wallet, is bigger. 🙂

        Face it, once you go headless you’re already in a unique minority. I credit my Steinberger GM with starting all of this mess! But really, it was a total epiphany – I had never considered ergonomics before beyond the basics such as weight, body thickness, and so on. So I think that for many guitar players it’s just ignorance of the differences in comfort and playability that are possible. You have to get out there and try lots of guitars… sometimes that’s an expensive undertaking, but in my case it ended up being very much worth it.


      4. Robert writes: “…a large part of it [desiring a particular model of guitar] is the image of being associated with a particular guitar hero”.

        Well, perhaps not a particular hero, but a certain style.

        I think people often choose their model of guitar based on how they perceive themselves as musicians. Or how they would like their audience to view them. Headless and ergonomic designs are somewhat frowned upon by a number of guitar players. I believe it’s because these people see such guitars as instruments meant for jazz or techno; genres that they might not want to be associated with (I’m talking only about the visual appearance, not the sound of the instruments).

        Take a look at the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”, for example ( This record cover wouldn’t have worked, if he had been holding a quilted maple “dipped in glass” PRS or a Steinberger. Or a Forshage or Klein, for that matter. A Tele conveys the right signal of rugged, scruffy rock’n’roll.

        Not that I am an expert on these things (music genres and guitar models), but I’ve thought a lot about it, especially from the perspective of “why don’t the rock bands, which I like, use headless guitars”. And I believe that much of the market has labeled headless guitars as “not a thing a decent rock guitarist would like to be seen with”.

        What do you people think? Have you thought similar thoughts or is the above total nonsense?

      5. I don’t think its nonsense. Without stereotyping, it seems that certain styles are for more likely to experiment. For example, many of the folks who have played Klein’s are jazz guitarists. Rock guitarists seem to either stick with the conventional or go totally outlandish. There doesn’t seem to be much room for subtlety or real individuality.

        This whole discussion, btw, reminds me of the recent Rolling Stones article commemorating the 20th anniversary of Appetite for Destruction. There aren’t too many players more associated with the Gibson Les Paul than Slash but the article reveals that he recorded not with a Les Paul but a copy of one. I imagine there was more than one guitar player whose faith in the tried and true was shaken by that news.

  4. Point taken about the significant segment obsessed with exotic woods and the tiniest details but at the end of the day many of these are… Strat and Les Paul variations! Here’s to getting the word out about alternatives. 🙂