Frisell Fits the Bill at Anthology

The Bill Frisell Trio impressed a crowd of attentive jazz fans at Anthology at a recent show.

The trio, which included longtime collaborator Kenny Wollesen on drums and pianist Jason Moran -- a virtuoso in his own right -- played songs from throughout Frisell's catalog, as well as a couple of unexpected Stephen Foster tunes.

After a quick joke about the big screen above the stage ("I'm not used to seeing myself on television"), the trio opened with a slowly building, chaotic intro that began with bird calls and ended with a rearrangement of Foster's "Hard Times." The lyrics, though not sung at the show, go like this: "Tis the song, the sigh of the weary/Hard times, hard times, come again no more/Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door/Oh, hard times, come again no more."

It felt appropriate. With "Hard Times," Frisell seemed to be asking us to cast off our preoccupations and just listen and enjoy -- if only for a couple hours. After that, we could go back to whatever was bothering us. And Frisell didn't make it very difficult to forget our cares. The trio -- with what seemed like very little effort -- had no trouble creating something artful and unique that transcended the day-to-day. I can guarantee you that very few audience members were thinking about anything other than the atmosphere and good music playing at Anthology that night.

Frisell himself played without any kind of pretense; he spent almost the whole show smiling, often downright beaming at Moran and Wollesen, and not saying much else except through his careworn Telecaster.

Before the encore, a fan on the balcony yelled, "You guys rock!" Frisell acknowledged the attention while looking distrustfully, again, at the big screen, then launched into another Foster tune, "Beautiful Dreamer." Judging from the relaxed way people lingered at their tables after the music ended, not too many folks left the show thinking about hard times.

T. Loper is a writer for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.

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