In the 1960s, while chasing the crossover dream, jazz musicians routinely covered Beatles songs. Clumsily, for the most part. The melody from "Lady Madonna," for instance, ladled over a smooth bop or easy funk groove, after which -- solos. The players had little to no affinity for the songs.
Guitarist Bill Frisell, 60, has Beatles music deeply embedded in his being, and thus shows a great affinity for this set of 16 John Lennon numbers -- culled both from the Beatles canon (thus, technically, Lennon/McCartney) and the late Beatle’s solo career.
Unlike a lot of contemporary jazz versions of popular songs, where harmonic re-imaginings sometimes render them all but unidentifiable, All We Are Saying... (Savoy Jazz) respects the melodies above all else — also, by and large, the rhythms and the tempos. Thus "Revolution" is played in a jaunty shuffle, "Please, Please Me," as a sprightly rocker, "Come Together" with a strutting bounce, "Julia" a dreamy lament.
Frisell went string-happy with this project, enlisting a couple of regular cohorts -- violinist Jenny Scheinmann and steel guitarist Greg Leisz -- to go along with his frequent rhythm section of bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wolleson. As per usual in this setting, Frisell prefers to interweave the strings into a lush melange of warble, whine and twang rather than to step out front and show off his impeccable imagination and prowess. By and large, late Frisell, at least on recordings, is about subjugating himself to the ensemble, and quite frankly that's a bit of a disappointment.
Still, All We Are Saying... is a lovingly rendered, utterly gorgeous 68 minutes of music, and will likely be a welcome listening experience to more open-minded Lennon fans. If only ...
Frisell performs "Mother" with just the rhythm section, plumbing Lennon's tortured confessional for emotional resonance, using measured dissonances, smeary chords and the album's only real unruly playing to create a genuinely powerful interpretation.
All We are Saying ... could've used more of that.
3 and 1/2 Stars
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.