May 27, 2024

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Four concerts in two days: The “Spiegel” series presents the stubborn musician Bill Frisell with different ensembles: Video, Photos

The dissonant dreamer: jazz guitarist Bill Frisell in the Elbphilharmonie. Wow, he says with his shy smile and lets his gaze wander up to the ceiling of the sold-out Elbphilharmonie. Wow! Amazing! Thank you!

That says everything for the next hour and a half, apart from the introduction of the names of the three “friends” who gather around him on stage. Everything and nothing that only needs to be mentioned because Bill Frisell’s notorious taciturnity has its counterpart in music. In a halt that at the same time creates a flow, a phrase wrested from the guitar, thrown awkwardly at first, which then unfolds unexpectedly, an autism meekly concerned with itself and the matter, which nevertheless ensnares and embraces the audience.

Four Ways to Look at Bill Frisell. Hamburg makes this possible as part of its “ Reflexionr” series with four concerts in two days, with a different light falling on him, especially through his fellow musicians. He himself shows himself to be astonishingly unchangeable in the midst of change. It is the serene 72-year-old Frisell who meets you here, on the road on his own never-ending tour, with an ever-increasing number of songs from several decades in his luggage, which he tries to marvel at even after the thousandth repetition as if he were them never met before. It doesn’t matter if he sings the seemingly inevitable Burt Bacharach evergreen “What the World Needs Now Is Love” as a bouncer.

Trio plus Gast. Bill Frisell (mit Gitarre) mit Rudy Royton, Thomas Morgan und Immanuel Wilkins.

He calmly picks note after note from the harmonies, lets his famous harmonics sparkle and now and then feeds lines into the looper or reverse delay. He only briefly finds his way to more aggressive, rock-distorted sounds. At least the younger Frisell was familiar with them, right down to shredding exercises, without ever having been anything other than a “Beautiful Dreamer,” as Philip Watson’s exhaustive biography, published last year by Faber & Faber, calls him. A dreamer who was sometimes oppressed by the nightmare.

In the jazzy combination with his trio, expanded by the elegantly slim sound of the currently most popular alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, with Thomas Morgan on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, which follows the evening Wow, he acts at most more prominently than in Harmony’s afternoon performance. Dating back to Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” from 1854, this wonderful quartet with singer Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts and second guitarist Luke Bergman highlights the folkloric treasures of the USA.

Harmony is neither afraid to revive the cowboy song “Red River Valley” in the three-part a cappella (with silent Frisell), nor to pick up “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” or a young classic in David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. discover. But even in this environment, which is entirely in the service of the songs, he, the arranger, as an instrumentalist, resists what is too smooth.

Monk without corners: Bill Frisell is a man of unobtrusive dissonances. He has confessed often enough how much his playing owes to the edges and corners of Thelonious Monk, except that even when he celebrates his compositions “Misterioso” or “Blue Monk” in Hamburg, they seem rounded. Nothing clinks or shrills in his second halves, because they either cluster around a powerful third that reconciles the ear, or pass by so slowly in his floating sounds that they lose their terror. The lonely sevenths and ninths with which he introduces themes don’t sound much stranger than the country sixths with which he decorates catchier songs.

Guitarists all over the world have pursued this attachment in countless transcriptions. But although he could be imitated to a greater or lesser extent, Bill Frisell did not produce any epigones, but rather admirers. Among the great guitarists of his generation, alongside Pat Metheny and John Scofield, he is certainly the one who is least rigid in his brand identity. Anyone who goes into the studio or on stage with him expects a real encounter – not just a name.

The Bill Frisell Five in the final concert includes the bassists and drummers from his two long-standing trios, none of whom can be given preference. The one with Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston is perhaps the more delicate and agile, the one with Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen the more compact. With the former, Frisell lives out his jazzy side, with the latter his pop and Nashville side. When united in a quintet, one could hope that both strengths would be increased. But this is where instruments come into conflict that move too much on the same terrain for them to not have to do everything they can to avoid each other.

Struggle for a whole: So Morgan and Scherr alternately share the plucking and bowing, and Royston, actually a miracle of dynamic possibilities, only blossoms as soon as Wollesen switches to the vibraphone. Not only that: in the struggle for a whole, the Americana faction has the upper hand. Scherr and Wollesen give the action a backbone that Royston and Morgan can only double or color. The beautiful idea of the supergroup finds its limits here: both trios are basically enough for themselves. Even Immanuel Wilkins the evening before is left out with his contributions, apart from an ecstatic solo at the end that breaks everyone out of their temperate mood.

The highlight of the two days, celebrated with quiet devotion and stormy enthusiasm, is the Sunday afternoon encounter between trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and Frisell, and the two themselves also seem to experience it as an event. Each has released solo albums, most recently Akinmusire “Beauty Is Enough” and Frisell “Music Is”. In mid-December, their album “The Owl” will be released on Nonesuch with the support of drummer Herlin Riley.

But you can’t hear them more spontaneously, more concentrated and more unprotected than in this beauty-drunk dialogue: Akinmusire with a lyrical radiance that occasionally allows itself to break out into the pale and gravelly, Frisell with his skeletal access to the harmonic splendor, the other purely sentimental would take the foreground.

None of the four Hamburg “ Reflexionr” constellations is a premiere: they are probably programs that Frisell himself suggested. It could easily have been expanded into a portrait. There is, among other things, a complex composing Frisell, particularly Aaron Copland. That doesn’t take away from the joy of experiencing so much Frisell in such a short time.

Musikalische Chemie. Ambrose Akinmusire (l.) und Bill Frisell

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