Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Concert Review--Bill Frisell

Some days, you just feel lucky. Bill Frisell with Tony Scherr and Kenny Wolleson came through town last night. Instead of playing at one of the concert halls or college facilities, instead of playing in a larger venue in Dallas or Austin where he could have charged a lot more for tickets, he came into Denton and played at Dan’s Silverleaf, the little bar that I’ve gone on and on about for a while. Because of the university (UNT was the first school to offer a jazz degree), there is a deserved reputation for music, but it still seems hard to believe that a little place like Dan’s is going to draw a world-class name like Frisell. I’m not complaining, of course. How Dan is able to get people like this to come is beyond me, but more power to him.

The place was sold out and turning people away at the door. The last time I had seen that was for the Alan Holdsworth show a couple of years ago. I didn’t make the same mistake twice: I bought tickets in advance. There weren’t a lot of seats, but I paid the extra $5 for one and, at a very reasonable $25, sat about six feet from the stage. I’d seen Frisell before at a concert hall in Santa Fe, the name of which I don’t remember, with a larger group and at Yoshi’s in Oakland with the Intercontinentals, but those shows weren’t anywhere near this small or intimate. For anybody who has seen him, to say his show is awesome is redundant. For those who haven’t seen him, his show is awesome. Guitar, bass, and drums work very well for a jazz band, though it’s not used all that often, and Frisell does it the best. His old trio with Joey Baron and Kermit Driscoll is one of the best groups I’ve ever heard, and that doesn’t slight Scherr and Wolleson, who are both amazing in their own right. What Bill Frisell does to tie everything together is so great, though I can’t really put my finger on what it is. Unlike a lot of great guitar players, he doesn’t play a lot of notes, but those he does play are some of the most expressive I’ve ever heard. His guitar speaks and, it’s one thing on an album, but live it’s really something to witness. They played a little bit of everything; from jazz standards to Amazing Grace to some stuff that reminded me of Frippatronics, and every song was great. He gave a lot of time to Scherr, who often played the lead parts with the bass, his fingers doing complex dances along the strings in his solos. Frisell always gives a lot of time for his band to shine, and they were great. In my pantheon of guitar players, he ranks right at the top with Django Reinhardt, and I feel as lucky as I possibly can to have been granted the opportunity to see him. Thanks Dan.