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Published: 2012/07/05
by Philip Booth

Bill Frisell, Club Soda, Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreal, Canada – 6/28

How best to reinvigorate vintage pop music featuring melodies that are as familiar as bedtime stories to several generations of listeners?

It’s an imperfect art, but eclectic guitarist Bill Frisell took an exemplary approach to just such a mission with last year’s All We Are Saying…, a collection of instrumental versions of familiar John Lennon gems, including Beatles songs as well as solo material.

Frisell gave new life to that material even more dramatically at the intimate Club Soda, for one of the first evening concerts during the sprawling, 10-day Montreal Jazz Festival. There, the conceptual-minded six-stringer was joined by his likeminded collaborators from the album — Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar, Tony Scherr on a Hofner Beatle bass, and drummer Kenny Wollesen.

Opening with “Across the Universe,” also the album’s first track, Frisell unleashed a series of air-hanging, ethereal notes leading the band into the gorgeous melody, with Wollesen using brushes for light rhythmic propulsion.

With the two guitarists ‘ lines often criss-crossing, the piece evolved into something of a fusion jam, and the rhythms stretched and slipped before the band shifted into avant-jazz sounds, finally dissipating.

“Beautiful Boy,” similarly, sprung to life gradually, with a free section leading into Wollesen’s laidback groove and the sing-song theme, the group finally hovering on a cloud of interlocked strings and percussion. Frisell effectively used dissonance at the start of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” tricking his way into the melody and effectively amping its emotional qualities — again, no easy feat but a task handily managed by the quartet.

Two of the set’s highlights came about midway through the 90-minute show. Scherr hinted at the distinctive slipping-upward bass line of “Come Together” before decidedly laying it down, and Frisell charged in with a fat, wooly tone for the melody; Leisz’s revved-up pedal steel solo was tinted with psychedelic touches. Then came “Julia,” perhaps the prettiest and most poignant of Lennon’s melodies, voiced by the guitarist after a long, slow drift into the piece.

Throughout a show capped with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and a hushed, slow “Imagine,” Frisell and his simpatico bandmates drew from a variety of genres — rock, folk, blues, Americana, jazz, and even some West African grooves and textures (“In My Life”) — for graceful, potent new readings of Lennon’s music. They made it all look so easy.

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Affsads August 9, 2012, 16:46:02

Je de9couvre ce lien un peu tard. J’e9tais e0 ce concert et ce fut un re9el plsiiar. Bien sfbr n’ayant assiste9 qu’e0 4 ou 5 concerts jazz dans l’anne9e difficile de faire la fine bouche (bon j’ai vu Scofield play R. Charles et ce fut moins convaincant…). Mais j’ai appre9cie9 en live le retour de Frisell depuis quelques temps e0 une musique plus dense, moins country neurasthe9nique. J’ai appre9cie9 de nombreux the8mes mais ce qui fait la patte du Bill et m’a fascine9 c’est sa gestion des tempos et des expositions de the8mes et de leur dynamique. Autrefois Bill utilisait beaucoup en effet ses pe9dales notamment pour jouer comme par pudeur du volume et effacer les attaques des notes. Ici j’ai eu la sensation que c’est sur l’ensemble du morceau que Bill joue d’une pe9dale de leader plus que de guitariste, pour faire monter doucement des tempos moyens qui s’emballent tre8s tre8s progressivement ou souvent ne s’emballent justement jamais, des expositions de the8mes qui tardent se de9filent ou se re9pe9tent e0 l’infini et sont martele9s. La violence, les passions sont le0 mais les tensions sourdes montent comme des flux inexorables et assez me9lancoliques. Bon plus terre e0 terre as-tu souvenir du solo de Frisell of9 il utilise un son de guitar qu’on pourrait appeler “anti-son” une sorte de son chewing gum qui n’explose pas vraiment audible !!... Heureusement Bill n’a pas insiste9.

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