Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bill Frisell Trio @ the Regattabar, 6/22/07, 10pm

The first review I remember reading of Bill Frisell, probably in 1990 or so, described him as a "mad scientist", mishmahing loopy feedback, disemboweled pop tunes and folky licks. Time and success have certainly mellowed the reaction to Bill's music, but if last night was any indication, it hasn't made it any less accurate. After awkwardly introducing his longtime trio of bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wolleson (his attempts at joke-telling before the encore were even more awkward), Frisell set up a series of feedback loops that sounded like crickets tripping on X. Over the course of the evening Frisell came back to variations on these loops, and while this technique is certainly one of his trademarks, they sounded very fresh- he was continually mixing in sounds I'd never heard from him before- not licks, sounds. I'm not enough of a gearhead to know what he was doing, but some of the sounds almost sounded borrowed from analog synths, and mixed with the more "traditional" guitar sounds the effect was delightfully jarring.

After the others joined him in flirting with a free-time version of "When You Wish Upon a Star", Bill thought better of it and ripped into Monk's familiar "Misterioso". The tune set the tone for the evening- the feel was loose, the interaction tight; most of the time it seemed like Tony and Bill were improvising in unison. I guess seven plus years as a band will do that to you. At times the tune had the "equal improvisers" feel of the 60's Bill Evans trio, at others the grunginess of a dive bar rockabilly band. All the tempos- on "Misterioso", a fairly striaghtforward readind of the Delfonics' "La La La Says I Love You" and some of Bill's originals were faster than I expeceted, giving them a slightly manic edge. (By contrast, he played Lee Konitz's "Sub-Conscious-Lee" and its notoriously twisty head right down the middle, and Bill laid out some of the most interesting linear playing I've ever heard from him.) Most of the tunes probably could've ended about three choruses earlier than they did- some of the endings bordered on tasteless- but the band was having so much fun no one seemed to mind.

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