It was early, maybe half an hour before Bill Frisell was set to arrive for his Tiny Desk Concert. Already, a crowd here at NPR was buzzing around, waiting to hear Frisell make his magic and watching him set up an array of pedals. I've never seen anyone play guitar the way Frisell plays: What I hear is a man on a mission of discovery, where one chord, one note, one effect can send him in unplanned, uncharted directions.
One of the best features of our Tiny Desk Concert series is the occasional opportunity to hear a band perform its songs as they were written: with just an acoustic guitar and unamplified voices. That's the case with Girl In A Coma. In an interview, singer Nina Diaz said she writes the band's songs by closing herself off with just a notepad and her acoustic guitar.
Anna Calvi is a brilliant guitar player, and if it stopped there, I'd still be captivated by her music. But Calvi's playing is only the underpinning of the superb songs she writes and sings — and that's saying nothing of her incredible voice.
Glenn Jones has only taken up the banjo recently, but it's as if he's been inside the instrument for a lifetime. At least that's how it felt when he opened his set with a modal piece that might have felt more appropriate played next to a quiet creek than behind our desks at the NPR Music offices.