June 15, 2024


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Live review: Bill Frisell Trio – They consistently and strikingly play as one, voices intertwined, as if sharing a single thought at Tbilisi Jazz festival 2024: Video, Photos

The Tbilisi Jazz Festival is the most significant and the most luxurious in the Caucasus. This year it was held on May 22 – 24, 2024, in the center of Tbilisi, on the stage of the Rustaveli Academic Theater, in a historical and beautiful hall.

In general, as every year, the Tbilisi Jazz Festival emphasizes and stands out with the fireworks of jazz legends. This year was no exception. Bill Frisell – Thomas Morgan, Rudy Royston Trio, Joey Calderazzo – John Patitucci – Dave Weckle Trio and Stacey Kent – Jim Tomlinson – Art Hirahara Trio.

In addition, the Czech Embassy in Georgia presented the Herak & Bulatkin Jazz Quartet from the Czech Republic as the opening act of the festival.

We will have 3 publications about each of them separately from Tbilisi Jazz Festival 2024. This time, let’s start with the miracles of the first day։ Bill Frisell – Thomas Morgan, Rudy Royston Trio!!!

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Bill Frisell’s this trio featuring bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston is musically nimble enough to go anywhere with Frisell in the most spontaneous manner.

They have a command of the sizable ouevre of Frisell compositions, as well as the popular, folk and standard songs that Bill enjoys interpreting on an ongoing basis.

The trio’s method is interactive, conversational and ready to groove at any moment, yielding fresh and surprising performances at every stop along the way.

They consistently and strikingly play as one, voices intertwined, completing phrases as if sharing a single thought … Even overdubs are so perfect that everything feels utterly organic… the performances represent jazz playing at its most intelectual sublime.

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Bill Frisell is clearly in his comfort zone with his long-time trio. The trio is mainly playing familiar material from the Frisell songbook. His lush canvasses gorgeously frame Frisell’s trademark tone, natural melodicism, and unhurried phrasing. Yet, there’s an element here that the listener may otherwise be unaware of. The trio was given free rein. They didn’t need to read the music, so they were improvising, and the orchestras were reacting to and embellishing those moves. These projects require the utmost discipline from both ensembles, yet much of what you’ll hear is spontaneous.

Frisell’s chiming guitar enters with Royston and Morgan, adding even a more profound swirling quality to the sonics. Lush Life, performed by Frisell in vocal and instrumental contexts, is the perfect example of give and take between the trio and the orchestra in this setting.

Doom, by Ron Carter, is recognizable as “Mood” off the Miles Davis Second Great Quintet album E.S.P. Every tune here would be a candidate for a film score. Frisell’s crystalline sound and gradually framing it to strengthen its impact. Royston’s signature cymbal flourishes indeed connote gently falling, sun shower-like raindrops.

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Ringing guitar notes reverberate and echo with more authority as the trio extends them. The blending sounds are captivating, and Frisell’s trio mates also seem more at the forefront. Doom is the epitome of such, though it retains its deep noir quality in both. Opener Lookout for Hope brims with energy, as does Levees. Strange Meeting begins pensively but builds into highly suspense-filled passages. Royston, as it’s often been said, is much more than simply a timekeeper; he’s often another melodic voice.

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Every so often, Frisell puts his trademark spin on the blues as he does here on Electricity and, to some extent, in Monica Jane, the ensemble ebbing and swelling seemingly to each well-placed note of tightly woven riffs. He ends his shows with We Shall Overcome, this version being wildly exultant. It’s a glorious exclamation point to a stunning concert.

Of course, we also went backstage, thanked the musicians for the wonderful concert, and took the opportunity to take selfies with each of them.

By Simon Sargsyan

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