Category: Art and Culture

BillFriseel 2023 Leverkusen

Apr 14, 2024 - Bill Frisell Trio live | Leverkusener Jazztage 2023

Here's another Bill Frisell Trio concert that's definitely worth the listen, making every second spent on a re-listen priceless moments.

SInce hearing it for the first time yesterday—an event I can best describe if using the word "orgasm"—life is mostly priceless...

With two more years playing with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston since the 2021 Jazzaldia Frisell concert I had shared, and with a Fender rather than the Gibson, Frisell is delivering from a place of absolute comfort in this showing. And the world is better for it.

The energy bristles and snaps, peaks to its loudest through soft sentences and filled silences; it's infectious, coursing through listeners who are complicit, drawn into the exchange, hearing, reacting, electrified vigour having laken over when the distortion mounts and the reverb amps up... and where's the madman with 5 arms and 7 drum sticks? That dude looks way too chill...

The sound sculpting by Frisell on this one establishes why so many try so hard to emulate him, only managing to achieve it in an ephemeral manner that offers but a surface glimpse of the artist.

At the start of a concert I was at, John Scofield—a guitar great in his own right—had mentioned Frisell and the show he gave within the same festival, then went on to praise Frisell, saying, though I'm paraphrasing: "I also play with tone, and I can do loops, and I know how to use the same effects as Frisell, so, I figured I'd be able to do his stuff no problem, maybe even better... but, it turns out, Frisell does all three at the same time, and he adds emotion and passion on top... that, I can't do."

Rudy Royston... jeez, man! Like, holy crap! Some of the time changes he manages, inserting odd-beat oddities that fit right in, filling more space than one realised was there as he's continually accentuating, never simply setting time.

He's just at the edge of overstated and over-the-top at times but he never crosses that line, never going into "look at me," Steve Vai-styled gimmickry that easily wows publics but offers as much substance as a Big Mac.

Thomas Morgan, however, you kinda forget he's there at all, frankly, which, practically, makes his performance a "perfect" one if seen with the symbolic significance of a baseball pitcher throwing a perfect game.        

This version of "What The World Needs Now Is Love" is far superior than the Jazzaldia one, but, for one of the best, have a listen to the one in this 2017 Montreux Festival live show he did with his previous Tony Sherr, Kenny Wollesen trio.         

"You Only Live Twice" appears to now fill a spot in Frisell's changing repertoire of standards. While the Jazzaldia version had "wowed" me, this one solidified my "awe"; the three just make it groove, but do so by focusing on the melodic brilliance of the chart, not on its groovability potential.

On the other hand, 'Shenandoah" is one he seemed to have let go of for a bit, bringing it back for this live concert. 

Frisell recorded a version of the Americana trad-tune "Shenandoah" with Ry Cooder for his 1999 Good Dog, Happy Man album, and, although hearing two guitar masters with a love of Americana come together to cover it should provide the go-to reference for those wanting to hear Frisell's interpretation of this classic, it's the one I'm least likely to think of and to go to, the takes that managed to truly move me all coming out of his live trio performances. This version also now sits before his 'official' 1999, Cooder-collaborated cut.  

Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" is another that delivered an intimate, powerfully profound and moving Frisell reimagining that's no longer making a regular showing in his setlist. Eager to see this trio tackle it.

I'm actually glad he keeps altering as he also keeps on writing new charts, too, which is why he hasn't had anything I'd qualify as a stale period, nor the typical breakout-turned-stale career; always Friselling, he is! 

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Setlist

  1. 1. Keep Your Eyes Open 00:01
  2. 2. Blues From Before 10:45
  3. 3. My Man´s Gone Now 25:00 (George Gershwin)
  4. 4. Follow Your Heart 35:33 (John McLaughlin)
  5. 5. Lush Life 46:53 (Billy Strayhorn)
  6. 6. Shenandoah 1:00:12 (Traditional)
  7. 7. You Only Live Twice 1:01:19 (John Barry)
  8. 8. What The World Needs Now Is Love 1:13:10 (Burt Bacharach)
HenryTexier Varech v4

Apr 7, 2024 - If, My Own Soundtrack - Henry Texier - L'éléphant

If I had to select a handful of charts—none being my own compositions—worthy of being a part of my own soundtrack, this one would be among them.

It's called "L'éléphant" (The Elephant), and it's from French bassist Henri Texier's 1977 solo album, Varech (reissued in 1979 on JSM), on which he plays double bass, oud, bombard, flute, and percussions, as well as 'sings'. 

Texier plays all the instruments heard on the album, and he's the sole vocalist, too; each chart was made using overdubbing techniques.   

I've just one complaint: at 3:14, it's way, way too short. It could go on for 30 more minutes and still be too short, in my opinion.

The whole (album) is steeped in French folk music, the wordless vocalisations being a staple of that era, although, evident on this particular track, to those with an ear for such things, is an Indian influence, which is undeniable from the halfway point on. 

I so love this simple tune. 

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Mar 18, 2024 - Romano, Sclavis, Texier - Carnet de routes

From one thing to the next, things triggered fond memories of this album, which I then took the time to savour once more, not having listened to it in its entirety for some years.

Africa—or a part of—is central to this project, but it's certainly not an album I'd categorize under anything that emphasizes "African music" in any way; it's a very European affair, yet, it's the Africa in it that garnered the album much attention from many corners of the jazz world, making it a very important release for the French jazz scene. All's in the rhythms, and what's expressed is a reminder that influence doesn't have to mean "adoption", it can mean "adapting".

It's called Carnet de routes, meaning "Travel Log", put out by Label bleu in 1995. It brings together Italian drummer Aldo Romano—the central point behind the project—with French bassist Henry Texier and soprano sax and clarinetist, Louis Sclavis. 

The last is a huge name in free jazz and musique actuelle circles, his uplifting modes, breathless ripples, squonks, squeaks, and powerfully-warm tones have been improvised alongside some of the biggest names, including saxophonist, flautist, and composer Jean Derome, a prominent name in the Montreal jazz scene and a Canadian leader in the form. He also appears on trumpetist Dave Douglas' Bow River Walls, which, albeit an interesting album, I mention for a chart called "Petals", the interplay between Douglas and Sclavis managing to wow me with each listen. 

Sclavis has also played a more subdued-but-still-pronounced voice in more traditional formations, though through less traditional-type tunes, perhaps, and he's also offered listeners solo efforts that work as a kind of study taken as a whole, the approach drawing parallels with Quebec clarinetist and composer Robert Marcel Lepage, wherein "variation", be it applied to any element, is the focus, a complete listen offering something that's akin to a Philip Glass symphony with the all sounding the same but very different, the music always morphing in subtle ways, though, from them, we get vignettes, the transformations existing outside the pieces.

Any how, I'm getting off topic.

Henry Texier, now nearing 80, has had a long and full career, one too long to cover in a few lines except to say: a true jazzman, through and through. His artistry is audible in all three tracks I've included from the album, these being my favourites.

I'm less familiar with Romano, but, having been urged to teach a course at the French Cultural Centre of Malabo, in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, its director, a French man named Guy Maurette, then sparked the idea, Romano bringing the other two in on the project, the goal being: visit remote towns, set up, play, musically interact with those present. The whole was photographed by Guy Le Querrec, some well known french photographer. 

The album is the result of two trips throughout select regions of Africa, these excursions financed by the French Cultural Centre of Malabo. Sure, in these Woke days of ours, one could say much about colonialism in critique of this musical venture.

Which is why I made it a point to mention what I did about it being a "European affair" right at the top. No sense of "appropriation" can be applied to it, nor can "exploitation". 

The musical experiences they underwent in Ghana are, according to Romano, those that had the greatest level of influence on the trio. 

I'll stick with just this album, but on their Flashback album released a decade or so later is a meditative, profoundly-moving chart called "Si Dieu n'éxiste pas" (What if God doesn't exist) that's worth the listen. Perhaps, I'll share it at another moment..

For the first, if I had my way, this is more or less along the lines of what I think Hip Hop should sound like. Don't let the preamble fool you; it swings, and manages to increase the intensity by a healthy notch, winding down before stopping, as any good athlete should.  

A nice, moody piece; a beautiful interplay between base and clarinet, Romano's high-hat the loose, clinking change that marks each step through a wondrous, mystifying space.  

This one may be a bit more demanding for most ears; the mastery of all three is amply clear, and Sclavis isn't making random noises, especially not ones that sound like grating car horns... not to any ears I'd respect, anyways. The deep, penetrating tone out of Texier's upright base is what ties the piece, but it also serves to showcase the good choices underscoring each chart that each musician always appears to make within this trio, whilst it establishes the high recording quality that one could expect from Label bleu (I say "could" as I've not kept up with the label for a few years); I bought several albums from artists I knew nothing about but took a chance based on the label—there are a handful of labels for which that's true—and I've never been disappointed. Though this particular album wasn't one of those.

I'd first heard it at a friend's place, a gang of artsy nerds I fell into at university; truly great and bright, creative people to whom I owe many musical discoveries.

Mar 9, 2024 - Saying an Official Goodbye to My Epiphone S

First off: To all women, with or without a penis, more power to you! And not just on your globally-recognized special day. On Mother's Day, too.

Kidding. But you're welcomed. Now back to the kitchen you go. Hop along. Thank you.

•       •       • 

Been caught up in preparations and had little time to write today, so I'm sharing this, the last improv I did with my beloved guitar before selling it. 

I'd done a "last improv" that's 29 mins long that I had uploaded to SoundCloud, but managed this last, last one before saying a final goodbye.

Sigh.

Fully improvised track, no edits. 
Electric guitar; two loopers; effects.

Mar 6, 2024 - Say It Ain't So, Joe?

Here's one of my all-time favourite songs, which is also the name of Murray Head's 1975 album, Say It Ain't So, Joe.

That, combined with the sentiment it captures and expresses and our current times, never mind the "Joe" part, is why I share it. I was gonna say something about it similar to what's below, but the song's artist beat me to it, I guess?

The Wikipedia entry for the song offers:

According to Head, he wrote the song about fallen heroes. He wrote the following comment in the liner notes when he re-released the song in 1995 on the album When You're in Love:

"Say It Ain't So, Joe" was provoked by a seventies documentary on Richard Nixon prior to his resignation. The presenter was asking the editor of a small town newspaper outside Washington, how, in the face of conclusive evidence and proof, his readers could still show such undying support for the president they elected. The editor likens the situation to a scandal in the twenties, when Joe Jackson, the famous baseball player, was rumoured to have taken a bribe to sink his team in the final of the World series. His fans hung around the stadium chanting "Say it ain't so Joe".

The song is about heroes and their "Clay feet". It is also a plea from myself to the kind of 'Joe Public' who in fear of losing face, refuse to relinquish their faith in a fallen idol.

The song is on an album which has sold over a million copies and was produced by Paul Samwell-Smith, who recently decided to re-record the song. Shortly afterwards I was watching another documentary on the O.J. Simpson case and they showed a note pinned to his gate on which was written "Say it ain't so Joe". Two days later a friend, just returned from L.A., rang me to tell me they'd seen placards with that same old phrase. The occasion seemed apt for a re-release.

- Murray Head, 1994

I suggest giving "When I'm Yours" a listen as well, which is another superb tune on that album.

On a more positive note, here's "Everything's Alright" featuring Yvonne Elliman, Murray Head, and Ian Gillan, lead singer of the significant hard-rock vehicle, Deep Purple ("Child in Time"... wow).

It's from Jesus Christ Superstar, the only Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock-opera I can fully stomach, perhaps because it was initially conceived as a concept album rather than a Broadway fanfare. Some really great tracks off of the 1970 album, which is the only version I can listen to.

Feb 24, 2024 - Rabih Abou-Khalil: Mourir pour ton decollete

Lebanese oud player, composer, and band leader Rabih Abou-Khalil has long been a favourite of mine. His work marries traditional Middle East forms with Western jazz ones. His music pulsates, drives listeners into an Arabian mysticism that conjures familiar phrasings whilst taking them on explorative journeys shaped by eerily-simple or bafflingly-complex singular voices that rise out of the tight, collectively expressed themes. 

Seeing one of his larger ensembles live, which included trumpetist Kenny Wheeler and bassist Steve Swallow, remains one of the more memorable concerts I've attended out of the thousand+ experienced, this also being true for the centuries-old musical tradition embodied in the Moroccan trance music of the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Music that liberates. Profoundly.   

The album I'd like to draw your attention to, his 2007 Songs for Sad Women, features a stripped down ensemble of only four musicians, with Rabih Abou-Khalil on oud, Gevorg Dabaghyan on duduk, Michel Godard on serpent, and Jarrod Cagwin playing standard and frame drums.

The whole album is worth a listen—as for the rest of his discography—but it's the chart titled "Mourir pour ton décolleté" I wish to share.

In this particular piece, it's the duduk voicing that gets me (starts at ≅ 3:35); it's absolutely hauntingly beautiful. It has a way of reaching inside me, completely disharming me, making my heart swell with a generalized sense of melancholia that manages to simultaneously fill me with a deep sadness and joy.  

French avant-garde jazz and classical music tubist, Michel Godard, adds an important, resonant layer, playing the tuba's precursor on this album, a serpent, named as such for its—you guessed it—serpentine shape.   

No matter how many times I've heard it, I still get goosebumps.

Music so beautiful it hurts to hear it.

Anouar Brahem's 1998 Thimar, with jazz greats Dave Holland and John Surman, is another such album.

If I'm not mistaken, the duduk air is from a traditional, folk wedding song. I'm pretty sure I've a source recording in my archives that dates from the 1930s, but I wasn't able to locate it quickly, and if I dive too deep, I'm not coming out of there for hours and I've things to do and prepare...

The album is a type of protest against the regional radicalization that saw women's rights being reduced, including the right to dispose of their bodies and to dress as they wish. The title, "Mourir pour ton décolleté" directly translates to "Dying for Your Cleavage", which is to be understood as "dying for your slightly unbuttoned shirt."

Given the times and the events in the region, nothing seems more appropriate: 

Bill Frisell v2

Dec 1, 2023 - Bill Frisell Trio - Jazzaldia

Guitarist Bill Frisell in concert with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston.

I'm a huge fan of Frisell's music and ingenuity, his careful phrasings, and improvisational skills; his live looping techniques and solo works are entirely responsible for my guitar hobby. He's also opened up a tonal dynamic previously not expanded on through plectrum instruments, and creates rich tapestries and atmospheres that make it equally valid to describe him as a sonic sculptor, but all's done gimmick free. Pure self expression, heartfelt and honest.

Times have changed, and digital led to an oversaturation, but those in the know will be hard pressed to disagree: Frisell is our time's Miles Davis, his contribution to the world of music is immense, having inspired countless musicians (Eddy Vedder of Pearl Jam names him as his greatest influence, for one) and a slew of emulators. But there's only one Frisell.

He's also the musician that's most in demand; you've probably heard him play on one album or another without being aware.  

I never tire of hearing him play. I've been following his career for 30 years now, had the pleasure of seeing him live nine times, and with 118 albums with him as leader (studio and live recordings) or on which he's featured, he's actually in second place for the artist I've the most albums of (John Zorn comes first, Fred Frith third; there's a fair bit of overlap between the three, though, Zorn's wildly avant-garde, quick-change Naked City, along with Wayne Horvitz and Joey Baron being my entry point to these musicians).        

He has a knack for surrounding himself with superbly expressive musicians that just "get" his music, whether his own compositions, of which there are many, or the various covers he's made a part of his 'standards', this being true across the various ensemble sizes he leads.

I was deeply disappointed when he moved away from his original trio with Kermit Driscoll and Joey Baron (what became of Driscoll is sad; wonder if he's still in jail), but Tony Scherr and Kenny Wolleson brought a different dimension that saw me being disappointed to see a gradual transition toward Morgan and Royston. But they, too, bring a different dimension. Royston—his snare work is something else—brings Baron's angular accents to Wollesen's lyricism.

And no matter how many versions of the same tune I've heard Frisell and band play, each one offers a unique experience. That's because Frisell, along with those he includes in his projects, all seem to excel in one area, this being what makes all the difference: listening. He doesn't force musicians to play his music, his way; the charts played merely serve as common ground for the musical exchange and conversation taking place, personalities and moods, the musicians' and crowd's, all factoring in.

Listened to this concert four times already; probably will listen to it again. Felt like sharing it.

The second half is sure to be more interesting if not a jazz fan, in which case I'd recommend starting at around 48 mins, and to then expand your listening range, moving away from that electronic-drenched, pop garbage.

His take of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now is Love" (near end) is simply gorgeous. And the "You Only Live Twice" Bond theme encore managed to surprise me.

Hope you enjoy.

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The Overpass

  • - Between Life, Living, and Being a Dreaded PMC
  • - What's Going Down on the Street
  • - Bill Frisell Trio live | Leverkusener Jazztage 2023
  • - Had no Choice. But Glad I did. Fingers Crossed
  • - Dictators, Autocrats, Fake Democrats, and Major Idiots
  • - I've Bad Luck, Except...
  • - The Street Gets Another Month
  • - If, My Own Soundtrack - Henry Texier - L'éléphant
  • - No Choice; Street Closing Down?
  • - Update on the Street
  • - Woking Sense in a Hunter's Trans-World Dick Pics. Maybe
  • - Daily Wire Says B'Bye to Candace Owens
  • - Authorities Vs. Pawns and Free Market Shops
  • - Romano, Sclavis, Texier - Carnet de routes
  • - At Least I Still Have My Saeco Espresso Machine
  • - A Welcomed Break. A Better Chance
  • - Countdown Done. Gone Homeless
  • - Two Days to Go. Poor Optics
  • - Five Days to Go. And Today, Much Snow
  • - Saying an Official Goodbye to My Epiphone S
  • - Intelligence Generally Suits Artificial Law - Musk vs. Closed AI. Maybe
  • - 8 Days to Go
  • - Say It Ain't So, Joe?
  • - AI Generally Taking Us Toward Stupid
  • - Ten Days to Go. Panic Sets In
  • - Helping Those on the Street. Please
  • - Lease Cancelled; Thirteen Days to Take Off
  • - Rabih Abou-Khalil: Mourir pour ton decollete
  • - Bill Frisell Trio - Jazzaldia
  • - Put In the Putin Propaganda
  • - China, India, Nepal Meet Money and Power
  • - Lira, Gonzo? Tell Me Again Who's Fighting for Freedom in Ukraine?
  • - Turning Point USA Takes a Hard Right Turn
  • - Regress from the Progressives
  • - India's Disinformation Campaign Against Sikhs
  • - Ideological Scumminess. That's what I Hate About the West