Frith plays Boston tomorrow.
It takes a sense of humor to put alligator clips on the strings of a guitar so that notes sound like shattering glass, and to co-found a band with the punny name Henry Cow. So it’s no surprise that Fred Frith, who’s one of the world’s leading improvising musicians and a wildly inventive composer, would form a group called Cosa Brava.
The name of Frith’s new quintet, who play the Institute of Contemporary Art’s “New Music Now” series this Friday, means, roughly, “good thing.” Any resemblance to the Mafia, which referred to itself as “La Cosa Nostra” (“this thing of ours”), is entirely intentional. Frith, who turns 60 in February, has been in bands since he was 14. He understands that a group is a closed society with a particular style of communicating. And that applies especially to the improvising units he’s been part of, from the insanely eclectic Henry Cow in the mid ’70s to the howling avant-rockers Art Bears to Skeleton Crew, with the late cellist Tom Cora, to John Zorn’s brawny Naked City.