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Kevin Frenette: Fall River Guitar Guy

Gordon Marshall By

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KF: Actually, I'm in a few things right now: Forbes Graham's Wild May, with [bassist] Ryan McGuire and [drummer] Luther Gray. That's a fantastic group, and Forbes writes some really interesting charts for that group. And what I like about what he writes is that if you were to look at the four of us, without knowing we come in with pre-read material, you could almost figure out what we might sound like. And what Forbes brings, as far as charts, totally smashes that. Because we can't do what everybody else is known for playing. Forbes brings in graphic scores—

From left: Kevin Frenette, Adam Dotson, Forbes Graham, Andy McWain

AAJ: Literally graphic scores, with no notes?

KF: Correct. It could be shapes, or sometimes it's word fragments. Sometimes I may look down and see a circle and I'll think, "How does Luther play that?" And I think that's what's great about that group: "How do you play that circle on the drums—on the guitar?"

AAJ: Is there any right answer, or any semblance of one?

KF: No, I don't think so, because Forbes really leaves it open to interpretation. But I think it's one of those things where, once it hits, everybody starts to hear what everyone else is doing and it starts to become this composite thing that you can hear what the circles mean. The outcome is always different, too. Everyone's got a different way of playing that circle. But at some point, there becomes this collective identity on what those shapes start to mean, and so far it's been really successful. I really like that group.

Another thing that I've been doing for the past few months is The Citizens Orchestra, which Eric Zinman put together. And that's been a lot of the Boston crew: Jim Hobbs, and Forbes, Jacob Williams. It's interesting, in a large group like that, to know how to blend, how to let your ideas come forward but also play in the back. And it's been a real thrill because a lot of those people—they're my idols in that group.

I've done a few things in the past year with Jack Wright, in a quartet with Kit Demos on bass, John McLellan on drums, and that's been really, really great. Jack hasn't—or at least when he's been in this group, he tends to play less of a "lower-case" thing, and more of a free jazz thing—

AAJ: Energy?

KF: Yeah. It's great to hear him play inside of that, because when I used to go see him, he'd play really quiet things, in the lower-case style, and to hear him do this, it's wild. It's been sitting in the background. To hear him roar, it's amazing, and that's another chance for me to learn, because he's a fabulous musician.

AAJ: It seems like you're always ahead of the curve and you're always seeking to assimilate new phenomena, new styles, and new ways of putting your music together, to the point where some of it's like a diamond in the rough. But that's another part of the beauty—some of it, you've worked on for a while and it's very finely honed, and some of it you're still working on.

It's like walking through a forest and seeing elements of nature in different parts of growth: trees just budding, and then trees fully formed. You've got that great range. You're always searching for a new sound.

KF: I definitely agree with that. The whole point for me is just to keep evolving. Especially now, with the current trio stuff I've been doing with James Rohr on keyboards and John McLellan on drums. That trio just happened to come together out of—we had a gig booked and we couldn't book a bassist for it. ... It was a conscious decision to do something not in line with Connections. The trio is a much more subtle music, almost to the point where I look at the Connectionsrecord as—we're playing on the horizontal plane, where there's a lot of forward motion. There's a lot of connecting melodically in there.

I think, with the trio, we're dealing more with the vertical, where we're playing more harmonically. It's almost like stop-motion, like the tempo is totally in flux, where James and I might overlay on each other—he may play this really extended harmony, and I would overlay something on top that's related to it, and together we create this strange polytonality, and we really explore that for a long time. We might hover for a while. And instead of it being intensity and always forward motion to the piece—

AAJ: Static?

KF: I think we're just trying to come up with a different way. What I wanted was just something that's totally not what's going on in town right now—to have a group that doesn't sound like anything else. And I think we're working on something with that. Those guys in that group are perfect. The best part of it for me is those guys were my idols. I used to go see James all the time. I wouldn't talk to him. I just thought he was so great, I had nothing to say!

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