Bill Frisell – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 04/11/2017 2

Bill Frisell – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 04/11/2017

To spend time like this in the musical company of Bill Frisell is seriously good fun. For a man who has been directly involved in the intensely creative business of composing, arranging and making music for nigh on 35 years now – often in collaboration with a hugely diverse range of artists, stretching all the way from Ginger Baker to The Frankfurt Ballet and from Elvis Costello to John Zorn – the Seattle-based guitarist is also an incredibly frivolous fellow.

Tonight when speaking about his often excessive guitar tuning and when comparing such time spent with that of (say) Julian Bream, Bill Frisell cheerfully suggests that the English virtuoso classical guitarist may well be a man who just doesn’t give a shit. And then later on during what is still an absolutely sublime performance, Frisell confesses to having played the opening piece in the completely wrong time signature (3/4 as opposed to 4/4). A phalanx of cuddly toys perched in front of his monitor merely adds to the occasion’s heightened sense of playfulness.

And Bill Frisell also plays with a huge smile on his face. He is here at the Howard Assembly Room with one of his many collaborations, that of the string quartet. He is joined by Jenny Scheinman, Eyvind King and Hank Roberts on their respective violin, viola and cello with Frisell’s own electric guitar taking the place of a second violin. Together the ensemble produces a quite remarkable swell of sound, one that matches the mesmeric with the effortless and combines abstraction and structure with a quite remarkable collective sleight-of-hand.


Bisected by a short intermission, the quartet traverse a musical spectrum that touches upon jazz, blues, country, bebop, avant-garde improvisation, and even Caledonian-flavoured folk (on ‘The Pioneers’) without ever hanging around long enough to enable a clear definition of their unique sound to be properly determined. It is music without frontiers, just one huge virtuosic groove.

The first half of the set concludes with Bill Frisell’s interpretation of Stephen Stills’ ‘For What It’s Worth’. In an eerie, transformative arrangement he relocates the song’s view of American counter-culture in the 1960s to an uncertain world future whilst still holding dear to the fundamental protest that lies at its very heart. Frisell concludes the set proper with a delightful, intuitive reworking of Bacharach and David’s ‘What The World Needs Now is Love’ before returning for a wonderful encore of the theme song from the 1960’s TV western series, Bonanza in which he adopts the guise of Duane Eddy in a glorious twanging finale where you fully expect to see Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright ride their horses right across the Howard Assembly Room stage.

Photo Credit: Simon Godley

Some more photos from this show can be found HERE

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