Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bill Frisell - All We Are Saying...

I find most of guitarist Bill Frisell’s output enjoyable so I’m always curious to see what he’s up to next.  He seems to constantly have a new album out or one in the works.  The most recent Frisell project is a tribute to John Lennon of the Beatles called All We Are Saying.

I must admit that I never really got into the Beatles; never took a direct interest in their music; and only have a casual association with it.  No John Lennon songs have been etched into my mind or held dear to my heart, so I’m not really comparing Frisell’s interpretations to any other standard or reverence.  That cold, agnostic detachment may work to my advantage on All We Are Saying.  Besides the most common songs like “Revolution”, “Come Together” (which are killer by the way!) and “Imagine”, there is only a semblance of recognition for me as I listen to the other tracks – or none at all. Since I don't know the words to most of the songs selected, I'm not cluttered by recalling the lyrics as I hear the instrumentals.

To me All We Are Saying sounds like everything that I’ve come to enjoy from Bill Frisell recordings:  a loose, atmospheric, disregard for genre…the meeting of pop waters, rock n’ roll distortion, and jazz sensibilities…all told under the guise of a roots music narrative.  In this case there’s the added benefit of the material being filtered through underlying melodies that sound somewhat familiar yet, to my ears, very remote. 

With Frisell on guitar, the band is completed by violinist Jenny Scheinman, pedal steel and acoustic guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen.  A familiar Frisell lineup that provides a rustic canvas for sketching out the essence of these compositions.  Lots of rehearsal was not necessary for these guys to pull this off.  These songs were already there, waiting in the wings, ready to pour out from the recesses of the musical mind…flowing naturally from one note to another as if they were being written on the spot.  Laid-back, dream-like renderings of Lennon’s strains absent any obvious hints of nostalgia. 

Surprisingly, it’s all done quite conservatively.  An unadorned, no-frills, home-base is always in sight as the quintet dances around each tune’s core – ready at any moment to take off but also showing a comforting amount of restraint.  Part rock, part meditation, all Frisell.  This may be a John Lennon tribute, but the Seattle-based guitar guru has his fingerprints all over it.  It’s almost as if, in my case, all they are saying is give The Beatles a chance!

Track List:
01. Across The Universe (5:53)
02. Revolution (3:52)
03. Nowhere Man (5:15)
04. Imagine (4:53)
05. Please, Please Me (2:08)
06. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (5:09)
07. Hold On (3:55)
08. In My Life (4:06)
09. Come Together (5:10)
10. Julia (3:32)
11. Woman (4:21)
12. Number 9 Dreams (3:42)
13. Love (2:18)
14. Beautiful Boy (3:28)
15. Mother (6:54)
16. Give Peace A Chance (3:37)
Duration: 68 minutes, 13 seconds

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