Frisell plays Lennon at the NAC Studio. That alone is enough to cause salivating and Frisell and his band (Kenny Wollesen – drums; Greg Leisz – pedal steel and acoustic guitar; Tony Scherr – bass) did not disappoint last night at Ottawa Jazz Festival. Interpretations ranged from sublime melancholy through to intense driving grooves with Frisell and his band-mates smiling, laughing and generally having a great time. Smattered throughout the set were interesting pedals and tools to mimic, for instance, a sitar sound...the interesting part is that the slide guitar used many of the pedals, not just Frisell. While all four musicians displayed fantastic talents I thought the drummer, Wollesen, in particular stood out, especially on the heavy and psychedelic Strawberry Fields Forever, staying deep in the pocket and maintaining the rhythm even in the face of some offbeat and eventually, minimalist stretches. Revolution was a tub thumper and represented a peak in sound, rocking the shit out of the captivated audience; Mother was a surprise choice but provided some great overarching guitar lines. Love may have been the shortest encore I've ever heard, seemed to last less than 2 minutes....not complaining, mind you.
You've Really Got a Hold on Me
Please Please Me
If I Fell
His version of Nowhere Man almost transformed George Harrison's solo into the main theme. There were a couple of dueling strings moments between Bill and Greg (on pedal steel/lap guitar) that were so locked in, I questioned if they were improvised on the spot or regular hooks they've "practiced". They are so talented and well-versed that the illusion of a rehearsed arrangements might actually be pure improve 80-90% of the time. It was obvious to me that Tony on bass was always watching Bill, waiting for his next move. He was even making these odd faces like there wasn't an audience in the room watching him.
Everything was amazing from start to finish. Here's a great clip of Bill Frisell solo captured by NPR.
Here's another review on OttawaCitizen.com covering the early show.