4

Bill Frisell: Helsinki, Finland, August 29, 2012

Anthony Shaw By

Sign in to view read count
Bill Frisell
Helsinki Festival
Helsinki, FInland
August 29, 2012

It's hard to find a summer festival that is not critically dependent on the weather for that essential vibe. As such, August's Helsinki Festival stands as good a chance as any for success, with the main stage located a half-mile from the central station on a bank beside an inlet of the Baltic, where 600 people can sit in relative comfort under a 40 foot high, custom built steel and poly-propylene marquee. And when the weather does shine there's an outdoor bar and all those old faces to catch up with during the intermission.

Bill Frisell couldn't have had it better, playing to a packed house on an evening of Baltic blue skies and tranquil sea, his ultimately laid back, echoing guitar wafting across the fences to a throng of freeloaders gathered on some rocks outside. Despite this loss of revenue, the festival organizers can congratulate themselves on selecting an artist who appeals to listeners of all generations, and who sold out this concert almost instantly. With a vast back catalog including artists such as singer Norah Jones and saxophonist John Zorn, Frisell's canvases have also included the world music of the Malian-styled Intercontinentals, and numerous other contemporary luminaries of rock and pop. He has a large pool of followers on which to draw.

Essential to many of his multitudinous recordings and especially to his live sound in Helsinki, here on tour playing All We Are Saying—the Music of John Lennon (Savoy, 2012), was his long-term colleague and coconspirator, pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz. Leisz's back catalog is as broad and eclectic as is Frisell's, and onstage their understanding reached back to a shared musical heritage where Lennon and McCartney stand tall. It's a catalog that stretches across the millennia, and their selection evening started with the suitably laconic "Across the Universe." As the concert progressed, the intensity seemed to grow, certainly later stomping through Lennon's raunchy "Come Together" and "Strawberry Fields." And for every twist that Frisell made to his modest effects unit or bend of the strings, Leisz matched with a tweaked and slurred phrase of his own, beautifully blending with Frisell's own melodic leads.

Bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen contributed invaluably to a show where their leader's modest mastery seemed as effortless as it was complete. The show picked up as it went along, filling the evening with timeless Beatles riffs that were still echoing the following morning.

Local musicianship also played its part in setting the scene for this evening of slightly edgy musical mainstream. Trumpeter Verneri Pohjola's heritage stretches back to the partnership of his bassist father, Pekka Pohjola, with British multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, but is now founded on his own compositions and work with upcoming young Finnish jazz glitterati. His quartet opening for Frisell was, itself, a similar mixture of familiar and fractious, with the evening's show including much of the music from it latest release Ancient History (ACT, 2012). The writing is Pohjola's. but onstage he worked closely with his edgy pianist, Aki Rissanen. The music was fresh but familiar to ears that grew up with father Pekka's Mathematician's Air Display and Consequences of Indecisions. Both Frisell and Pohjola are equally self effacing musicians who lead their bands as much from the rear as center stage, and on this airy evening produced a show that effortlessly transcended generations.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read WOMAD 2017 Live Reviews WOMAD 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Punkt Festival 2017 Live Reviews Punkt Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: September 17, 2017
Read Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium Live Reviews Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: September 16, 2017
Read 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival Live Reviews 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 15, 2017
Read Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre Live Reviews Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 15, 2017
Read 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden Live Reviews 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues" Live Reviews Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues
by Walter Atkins
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016
by Mark Holston
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Mike Westbrook at Bury St. Edmunds Festival" Live Reviews Mike Westbrook at Bury St. Edmunds Festival
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Pat Martino at Dazzle" Live Reviews Pat Martino at Dazzle
by Douglas Groothuis
Published: September 2, 2017
Read "Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens" Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.