Bill Frisell does John Lennon...

Brilliant - freakin-brilliant - is how I reacted to jazz guitarist's Bill Frisell's new tour featuring the instrumental melodies of John Lennon.  As one reviewer wrote:  we're so used to hearing these songs with the lyrics - and Paul McCartney's harmonies - that it is easy to forget the beautiful and complex lines of melody and challenging rhythms of these songs.  Thankfully, Frisell cracked each tune open and played each different part so that what was one old became new.

He was a master at deconstruction, starting with the melody (or harmony) from the bridge and literally playing with it until the band was ready for resolution on the chorus. And then, it hit you: "O now his improvisation makes sense... that was part of "Across the Universe" I realized during the first song.  He performed a similar alchemy on "Beautiful Boy" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." These songs would begin with Frisell's haunting guitar and travel into territory that was vaguely familar.  Then they would leave their musical forest for a moment, break into the light of the clearing and play the song as we remember it.  And then, when the house at Montreal's Club Soda was of one mind and soul, each band member was given a shot of experimentation before bringing everything home one more time.

I found myself weeping tears of joy and awe as "Across the Universe" dawned on me - it was haunting and bitter sweet - and at the same time prayerful.  Two other highlights were the extended jam born of "Come Together" - in which the diverse crowd DID exactly that - and the encore - a reverently psychedlic take on my favorite Lennon song "Strawberry Fields Forever."  It was a meditation on melody, silence and community and the whole house went deeper together because of Frisell's devotion.

I wanted to see Bill Frisell for two reasons:  I have been moved by the way he deconstructs old songs and rebuilds them - it is a particular genius that can do this and keep the audience engaged and he does it with grace and humility - and  I was blown away by his presence in the jazz documentary, Icons Amongs Us, where he said something like:  The thing about jazz is that it invites everyone to be together where we can try new things on in community in a way where nobody gets hurt.  In the moment, everyone is safe.

I love that: we can try new things on together in a way where nobody gets hurt.   That certainly speaks to my sense of musical creativity and community building.  It was a little bit of heaven hearing Frisell last night.

We wandered through the crowds afterwards and hung around for Rufus Wainwright to open the festival.  But after Frisell's brilliance, everything else was mere commentary.  Today is Dianne's 50th birthday so... we're off to the Botanical Gardens before tonight's jazz.


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