Anthony Wilson, the Los Angeles-based guitarist, composer and longtime member of Diana Krall’s backing band, has confirmed the release of his tenth studio album Frogtown, out April 15 via Goat Hill Recordings. A stark departure for Wilson, the album’s haunting collection of moods and meditations features lyrics and vocals by the sought-after musician for the first time ever. Frogtown marks the vivid realization of a decades-long desire by Wilson to go beyond the instrumental jazz he’s known for to tell textured, evocative stories inspired by his far-afield journeys—both inside and out; professional and personal.
Featuring twelve originals—including a co-write with Grammy winner Dan Wilson—plus an arrangement of traditional Italian tune “Occhi di Bambola,” the album’s songs revisit Wilson’s roots as a musician. While unmistakably centered on his signature jazz style Wilson’s new songs shine a light on other formative influences such as Ry Cooder, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, and others.
Recorded from Summer 2014 through early 2015 Frogtown was produced by Mike Elizondo (Gary Clark Jr., Fiona Apple, Eminem) and reflects the expanse of Wilson’s multilayered creative wayfaring—through regions of thought, genre and style. Wilson performs all guitar and vocals on the album while backed by Elizondo on bass, violinist Petra Haden, pianist Patrick Warren, as well as Jim Keltner (John Lennon, Ry Cooder, Traveling Wilburys) and Matt Chamberlain (Soundgarden, Brad Mehldau) on drums. Legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd performs on the Dan Wilson co-write “Your Footprints.”
For the last few years, Wilson has been trying to get somewhere else—someplace just beyond the borders of his imagination. “I was frustrated with the typical way a song went down,” he explains. “This wasn’t just happening on the page but also on the bandstand. And it wasn’t the playing itself, but the familiar shifts and turns. I felt this building impatience with the structures we jazz musicians commonly use in performance. It’s so easy for things to get flabby and unfocused.” He’d reached a juncture creatively. “Suddenly, I found myself most interested in finding a way of telling musical stories.”
Frogtown wanders into places forgotten or hidden; destinations tucked away in the city, but also feelings that linger within our own emotional landscapes. This roundabout, off-road journey has been more about a sense of integration, an artist finding a way to gather and connect all his influences. “It’s like there is a doorway into all of this through jazz. But it opens up to a much wider array of available colors and textures, and reveals something much more personal.”
Standing back, listening to the expanse, he reflects, “I feel as if I’m closer to making the kind of music that first inspired me, that drew me in as both a musician and a listener. Now, finally, I think I’m closing in on the ballpark.”
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