As part of the Knitting Factory's 1997 Jazz Festival, titled The Texaco New York Jazz festival, a long-time Knit fav was around to kick the festivities off with a well-attended bang. Bill Frisell, a highly unique guitarist and member of many legendary groups, including Paul Motian's "Units" was in performance this evening with both his quartet and by himself. The quartet featured a very unusual mixture of instruments, including Curtis Fowlkes on Trombone, Ron Miles on trumpet, Eyvind Kang on violin and Frisell on guitar. Starting from a very simple progression strummed on his six-string, Frisell was able to show how some very dense, complicated music can be stripped down to an accessible level, then brought back to a highly sophisticated musical sphere. The value in this type of arranging and playing is that the audience is literally picked up and brought along on a conceptual and musical ride, resulting in a very pleasing and fulfilling experience for all. A favorite aspect of Frisell's writing is the art of presenting a slight musical motif, or fragment, putting it away and then reminding the listener of it at different tempos and locations within the piece. The interplay and listening abilities exhibited by all members of this highly listenable group should be required listening for all who play improvisational music. When Frisell addressed the sold-out audience at the beginning of his solo performance, he coyly said "I am not prepared for this... do you mind if I just play some tunes?." The Seattle native then proceeded to put on a clinic as to how to play standards without making them sound tired, dated or boring. Featuring a great version of There is No Greater Love, Frisell was able to make use of his signature sound, remain true to the tune's beautiful melody line and include all sorts of unexpected dips and turns along the way. A splendid performance, and one that hopefully will lead to perhaps a live CD featuring what this listener heard on a hot Tuesday night at the good 'ole Knit.
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