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Kevin Frenette: Fall River Guitar Guy

Gordon Marshall By

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But it had a more logical track to it than that, where you'd always hear Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, so logically we'd flip the book to Charlie Parker, Miles, Mingus, and buy those records that were highly rated. And that eventually snowballed, until now you've got most of the Miles catalogue—or at least I did. Then you started moving into John Coltrane, getting all of that, and reading The Penguin Guide you would see the people who were related to that, and then you went to [Eric] Dolphy = 6340}}—

From left: Andy McWain, Todd Keating Tatsuya Nakatani, Kevin Frenette

AAJ: The family tree.

KF: Right. And the next person was Eric Dolphy. Through that it started moving out towards Anthony Braxton, things like that. Once we finally were really absorbing the Dolphy stuff, loving that, I remember one of my friends saying, "We're gonna go up to Boston to Tower Records," and I gave him 40 dollars, and I told him to get—It was one of those Anthony Braxton quartets on Leo, from the '80s, whatever one was highest-rated. He came back and we listened to it, and I said, "Wow! I don't like that at all!" I just couldn't connect with it, just couldn't grab it. And we put it aside and kept it there.

It might have been the next semester where we finally started moving into 20th Century composition and more modern composers. We were starting to study the Schoenberg piano pieces. And we were pulling the pieces apart, analyzing them in class. And the same thing—when that first day came and he handed us those discs and said go home and listen to this: "Wow! I don't like this." It was just all over the place and I didn't like it.

Weeks started going by, and we started analytically pulling all that stuff apart, and we started to understand the building blocks of what it was. It clicked. All of a sudden, I could hear this language that I had never heard of before, that was so colorful, compared to the traditional, harmonic material we had been studying throughout the classical period while we were in school. All of a sudden, it was like all these new sounds and new combinations of notes were there that it just snapped. It was instantly attractive to me.

And then when I went back to the Braxton, I was, like, "There it is." And then, I don't know. I must have paid Braxton's rent over many times because I have an immense collection of his stuff. I've studied all the composition notes and everything. He really is everything to me as far as listening to this stuff. He's just amazing.

AAJ: Some people might feel the same way, listening to your music. Now Joe Maneri and Joe Morris are two artists largely given credit for forging what's come to be known as the "Boston sound." Have you studied with either of them?

KF: I've never studied one-on-one with either of them, but I've studied watching them play, so many times. I used to come up, when I was in college, to Boston to see them play all the time. I used to love them. I never heard a group that could breathe like [Maneris]. The thing I liked most about the music was how excruciatingly slow some of it was. You could feel the entire room surge.

That was such an unbelievable template for me—to be able to see those guys, take that microtonal language and overlay that on something that was really, to my ears, jazz- based. Just the way that that group responded to each other—I remember seeing them, and bringing people with me and playing the CDs on the way up. They weren't into it, but getting them there, once they saw that group live, you could feel it happen. They just had something that was really influential to me. Not so much—if you were to look at my record Connections (Fuller Street, 2006) you wouldn't see that—but some of the things that I'm doing now, with the trio group, it really, really influences the direction.

AAJ: Microtonal?

KF: Not so much microtonal but, like, just the overall feel of the groups. Because the Maneris had an understated pulse. And I think what we're playing now with the current trio—we're really playing with those tools that I got from the Maneris.

Joe Morris—he was another person that I used to go to see pretty religiously. He's definitely my favorite guitarist. The thing that I like most about his music is that every project sounds different. It seems like he designs materials for each project to create unique areas for him to work in and I really enjoy hearing him working that stuff out.

AAJ: Now you have your Kevin Frenette 3, and your Kevin Frenette 4—who else do you play with?

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