Friday, November 12, 2010

Bill Frisell Review

Last Friday Mrs. S and I drove down to Birmingham to hear Bill Frisell and his “Beautiful Dreamers” trio. With Frisell, one never really knows what to expect. Some of his work is way out there, and some isn’t. And while I consider myself a fan, I’m not what one would call a “big fan”, more of a casual fan. But I have to say, the Beautiful Dreamers music and trio (guitar, drums and viola) is very approachable. The songs are recognizable, the execution is original and exhilarating, and the musicianship on display is unsurpassed. Tea for Two was a knockout and for my money, Goin’ Out of My Head was just stunning. There were a couple of songs where Bill put a music box thingy against the strings of his guitar, getting some confusing but stimulating feedback and interference loop noise going, which they then proceeded to work into the foundation of whatever song they were playing next. In addition to working extensively with feedback and reverb from the guitar, viola and their various pedals and amplifiers, Bill also did a good job of playing bass and rhythm parts when support was needed for the viola. Another trademark of Frisell’s group was their use of repeated patterns – patterns that once they are set up, can be returned to or not, varied or not, transposed or not, soloed over or not, and then, you can go right back to it and it all sounds fine. I was actually more intrigued by that than anything else. (Let’s face it: holding a music box on the strings of a guitar just isn’t all that exciting for someone who’s only recently seen Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion concert.)

As far as I can tell, they played all or almost all of the songs off the Beautiful Dreamers CD, which kept the session short and sweet and got us home at a reasonable hour thanks to the 7:30 start time. There were big chunks of seats in the middle of the theater that were unused, so we got to move over and have a little better view too. (It was an intimate setting to begin with – just 300 seats – and very comfortable.)
Tonight is going to be a bit more dynamic and a lot later night, with Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Orchestra playing in the big hall and starting a half hour later than Frisell’s trio did. But I plan to absorb all the energy I can. You might not recognize me come Saturday.

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