The Israel Festival, Jerusalem 2008 - Bill Frisell, Nils Wogram, Marcin Wasilewski, Anat Fort
The concert of the Bill Frisell Quartet (in a much better locationthe Jerusalem Theater) was the highlight of the jazz program and one of the best performances of recent years in Israel. Frisell, with Fender Stratocaster guitar only, with Ron Miles on trumpet, Tony Scherr on bass and Rudy Royston on drums were standing in a semi-circle, looking on each other all the time, and began a beautiful two-hours trip that covered most of the highlights of Frisell latest release, History Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008), including Frisell's country-ish "Monroe," Thelonious Monk's "Jackie-Ing," Lee Konitz' "Sub-Concious Lee" and Sam Cooke's soulful "A Change Is Gonna Come."
l:r: Ron Miles, Tony Scherr, Rudy Royston, Bill Frisell
Each composition was reinvented by this excellent quartet, as each player dug deeper for new angels and new nuances, never letting go of an elaborate and flowing rhythm and the emotional impact of these classics. Frisell reserved for minimum use his trademark effects, limiting them only to the introductions and codas of compositions as well restricting his American references. He clearly enjoyed the focused and inspired interplay with his long-standing partners in this quartet. Ron Miles is one of those underrated trumpet players who can make your spine shiver with each note. He constructed his solos wisely, always surprising with his original ideas. Scherr is an all-around musician, his playing of the bass like a caressing dance, as though he's trying to seduce the bull fiddle into yielding up more joyful sounds. Royston is a terrific drummer who knows how to shift and enrich rhythms through minimal means.
The program featured clever interpretations of be-bop classics by Monk and Konitz, an emotional and moving reading of Sam Cooke's hopeful answer to Bob Dylan's dark "Blowing' in the Wind," known also as an anthem for the 1960's Civil Rights Movement and, as an encore, a killer version of Malian songwriter and guitarist Boubacar Traore's bluesy "Baba Drame" in addition to a refreshing and uplifting version of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now is Love" (best known as a pop classic by Jackie DeShannon) suggested Frisell's perspective about jazz, genres and differences among the New, Old and Third World.
It seems that for Frisell such distinctions are useless and irrelevant. It is all one common universe, each part feeding and inspiring the other, all integrating into a coherent musical vision that is filled with hope, sheer beauty, abundant lyricism, yet encompassing diverse influences in a way that enriches both present and future.