Review: Bill Frisell Plays Lennon

"Frisell Plays Lennon" (featuring Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen) hit the Enwave Theatre Tuesday night, giving both Bill Frisell and John Lennon lovers a delightful night out.

The instrumentation for the performance (guitar, steel guitar, bass, drums) consisted of all instruments that have a natural sound decay (meaning that once you strike a note, it can only get softer). This created a built-in texture of dynamic swells manipulated at times by the wealth of pedals onstage.

The constant melodic interaction between guitar and steel guitar and the fact that, aside from a few solo guitar introductions, all the instruments were always playing, created a constant stream of sound I found became a little bit monotonous at times. The absence of lyrics also seemed to omit some of the character of Lennon’s music.

"Julia" was the highlight of the performance for me. The players followed the harmonic rhythm from the melody even through the solo sections, maintaining that melodic sense of phrasing. The melody maintained a vocal quality, and the introduction featured a variety of ambient sounds and melodic fragments that captured and held the crowd’s interest as they tried to figure out which song was being played.

The endings of a number of the tunes were questionable – giving one the impression of a jam session rather than a rehearsed performance. This was neither good, nor bad, as the spontaneity gave a sense of authenticity to the show.

While the audience was not addressed by the band until the very end of their 90-minute set, Frisell did share an anecdote about Miles Davis and John Lennon playing basketball together after the encore performance of "Strawberry Fields Forever". Miles covered the song in 1990 with Kenny Garrett. (Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiWjc7dRuJI)

Overall, the audience reception of the material seemed positive. My seat was shaking from feet tapping around me for most of the performance. One woman professed that she could have listened to the band for another 3 hours.

Other songs performed included "The Beautiful Boy", "You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away", "Come Together", and "Please Please Me".

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