Fred Frith

Fred Frith

English guitarist, violinist and bassist (Skeleton Crew).
Date of Birth: 17.02.1949
Country: Great Britain

Biography of Fred Frith

Fred Frith is an English guitarist, violinist, and bassist best known for his work with Skeleton Crew. He was born into a family of a gallery owner and a painter. From a young age, he sang in the church choir and played the violin, which later gave way to the guitar.

During his time at art college in 1968, Fred met Tim Hodgkinson, a self-taught musician. Their friendship soon turned into something more, eventually leading to the formation of the legendary British underground group named "Henry Cow". This band incorporated various styles of rock, blues, jazz, and folk in their music. Despite not gaining much recognition for their music, "Henry Cow" caused controversy in the Soviet Union due to their supposed pro-leftist views and use of Soviet symbolism in their image. Ironically, they were considered anti-communists in the Soviet Union.

"Henry Cow" served as a launching pad for Fred Frith's musical career. Through the band, he became accepted in London's avant-garde circle and discovered his talent as an extraordinary improviser. After parting ways with Tim Hodgkinson, Frith left Europe in 1979 and settled in New York. He quickly became immersed in the city's music scene and joined numerous projects. Through his active concert performances, Frith had the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded musicians who would later play significant roles in his future projects. By the early 70s, he was already acquainted with John Zorn and Chris Cutler, with whom he would create music for over 25 years.

In the early 80s, Frith's path crossed with the legendary bassist and producer Bill Laswell, whom he credits with having a tremendous influence on his career. Their collaboration resulted in the formation of the trio "Massacre" (Frith, Laswell, and Fred Maher), which played a pioneering role in what is now proudly called underground jazz. Alongside his work in "Massacre," Fred Frith actively participated in various improvisational projects such as "Improvised Music New-York-81, 82, 83" on "Celluloid" and groundbreaking collaborations with Bill Laswell in "Baselines" and the "Material" series (1981, 82, 91, 94).

During his years in New York, Frith performed with a vast number of renowned musicians, and each encounter had a profound impact on his musical perspective. Artists such as Pharoah Sanders, Ikue Mori, Tom Cora, and Brian Eno taught him invaluable lessons. In 1982, he formed the legendary trio "Skeleton Crew" with Tom Cora and Zeena Parkins, which lasted until 1986. After a short break and some time spent in seclusion, Frith returned to touring and performing.

In 1989, two avant-garde projects emerged, once again challenging musical conventions: the prolific and fast-paced recording project "Naked City" (seven albums in five years) and the group "Keep The Dog" (Frith, René Lussier, Zeena Parkins, Kevin Norton, Bob Ostertag, and Jean Derome), which actively promoted avant-garde music worldwide and even performed in the Soviet Union. Fred Frith's involvement in John Zorn's project "The Big Coundown" brought him international recognition, and he was awarded the "Knitting Factory Prize" for Best Jazz Guitarist of the year.

Apart from collaborations with other musicians, Frith has released a significant number of solo albums, showcasing his serious and distinctive approach to music composition. His discography includes more than 15 solo releases. In 1981, he released the solo album "Speechless," which established him as a serious and original jazz composer. This was followed by his most romantic album, "The Technology of Tears" (Fred Frith, John Zorn), which explored avant-garde music from a different perspective. Inspired by modernist art and impressionistic literature, particularly the works of Eduardo Galeano and the paintings of Béatrice D'Elizé, this project delved into a mysterious realm.

From the late 80s, Frith increasingly focused on creating music for theater and film. His passion for the arts led him to explore new avenues in his compositions. One of his notable works is the album "Allies" (Fred Frith, 1996), written as a musical accompaniment for a ballet performance by prominent choreographers Miller and Waldner for the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This album marked Frith's increased use of electronic instruments, with programmed drum parts and unconventional sampler sounds. His experiments with electronics led to the formation of the project "Death Ambient".

In addition to his own projects, Frith has worked as a composer for other musicians and ensembles such as ROVA Sax Quartet and Ensemble Moderne. In 1990, he founded the "Fred Frith Guitar Quartet" to perform his own compositions. The group released their third album, "Upbeat," in 1998.

Fred Frith's career as an improviser is also worth mentioning, as he has played with numerous musicians from various stylistic backgrounds, including Lol Coxhill, Chris Cutler, René Lussier, Henry Kaiser, and many others. The pinnacle of his improvisational career was the album "Funny Valentine," a result of a two-day recording session with Bill Laswell and drummer Charles Hayward in the mid-1990s.