Imagine: The Bill Frisell Trio

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
...when Frisell played
The Bill Frisell Trio
The Barbican
The London Jazz Festival
London, England
November 15, 2005

Every once in a while a performer can get away with what happened when Bill Frisell performed at the 2005 London Jazz Festival at the magnificent Barbican, but not often. Appearing with violinist Jenny Scheinman and guitarist Greg Leisz, he blew the rules away with a wave of his hand.
Bill Frisell has produced a long line of illustrious works such as the sensually hypnotic "Unspeakable, a Grammy winner last year, to "This Land, "Have a Little Faith and "Good Dog, Happy Man, every one a fine example of his breadth from Americana to near-trance music all under the heading of jazz.
Expecting a foray into these albums, he surprised the audience by immediately launching into "Across the Universe by the Beatles in a pool-lit trio with his colleagues on a bare stage. This then turned into an evening's tribute to the songwriting genius of a British native son, John Lennon. An hour and a half followed of pure magic in bass, electric and acoustic guitar; covering everything from the Beatles early discography with "Please, Please Me, to the raucous "Back in the USSR, to solo works of Lennon's, "Beautiful Boy, a medley incorporating "Imagine, and the haunting "Norwegian Wood . For anyone else and perhaps at some other time, this would have come off as patronizing a musician in his own land by a stranger, but when Frisell played "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away the magic of the voice silenced by violence once again took shape on the stage.
Whether you agreed with his politics or not, Lennon was a quixotic character who flew in the face of the conventions of the times and even his own character to make the rebellious statement he did in his life and his music. Ego-driven, petty at times and not above fighting in public, he was still unflinchingly honest with himself and was always focused, with detours, about rising above base human frailty to a higher ethic. "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away is the statement that most of us learn early only to expand, if we are successful, to the soaring questions of "Imagine . Frisell applied these concepts gently and without cloying and in doing so, reminded us all of our legacy and our task as human beings of finding our true human spirit. "In My Life, an almost obligatory hopeful yet poignant essay, became an anthem for the Queen's country in the face of the recent bombings in London and a fitting requiem for Lennon.

Frisell's own statement of jazz being a process and not a rarified style was evident in his almost folk-like yet unpredictable treatment of many of the tunes. He possesses the secret that the memorable ones always do, in the face of a culture that demands we all adhere to the standards set by the "flavor of the moment, he expresses himself with a lyric grace and lack of pretension as to play completely without ego. The expert accompaniment of his sideman on guitar, Greg Leisz, an expressive player on acoustic and lap slide guitar, and his truly graceful yet commanding violinist, Jenny Scheinman, bridged styles and moods seamlessly. The set took on the feeling of Mussorky's "Pictures at an Exhibition, with ethereal tone-poems between covers that wended their way from song to song and from feeling to feeling.

Music, when wielded by a wise and subtle hand can say more than politics ever will.

The also American trio, "Tin Hat, opened for Frisell, and between songs dropped a few hints about the current state of politics in the States, implying the deeply entrenched opposition of one group against another. Eclectic and worthy of note, they were an eerie mix of Klezmer meets Tim Burton meets Cirque du Soleil, but their sophomore status became evident in counterpoint to what the master Frisell was asking us to do: Imagine.

Visit Bill Frisell on the web.

Photo Credit: Michael Kurgansky


More Articles

Read Kneebody at Johnny Brenda's Live Reviews Kneebody at Johnny Brenda's
by Mike Jacobs
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Vossajazz 2017 Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights Live Reviews Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read Tallinn Music Week 2017 Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Andy Milne and Dapp Theory at SOUTH Jazz Kitchen" Live Reviews Andy Milne and Dapp Theory at SOUTH Jazz Kitchen
by Mike Jacobs
Published: May 19, 2016
Read "Electric Hot Tuna at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center" Live Reviews Electric Hot Tuna at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center
by Doug Collette
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "Bobby Hutcherson tribute at SFJAZZ Center" Live Reviews Bobby Hutcherson tribute at SFJAZZ Center
by David Becker
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Steve Reich @ 80: Music for 18 Musicians" Live Reviews Steve Reich @ 80: Music for 18 Musicians
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "Benny Golson Quartet at Duc des Lombards" Live Reviews Benny Golson Quartet at Duc des Lombards
by Patricia Myers
Published: August 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!