Bill Frisell: All We Are Saying

Frisell footBeatles' tunes have often been covered by actual and putative jazz artists, especially in the group's 60s heyday, perhaps in some cases in an attempt to piggyback its popularity. Guitarist Bill Frisell, on the promotional video accompanying this set of John Lennon tunes (All We Are Saying, on Savoy SVY17836), says he makes no attempt to jazz up Lennon's music. This is true and contrasts with the approach on many other treatments, where a swing beat was laid under Lennon-McCartney tunes.

(It even contrasts with the Fab Four themselves: one or two early Beatles tunes, perhaps because they arrived when the swing beat had only relatively recently ceased to be a mainstay of the pop vocabulary, did have four-to-the-bar bass lines and a kind of swing drum pattern - eg, All My Loving.) Here, it's all pretty stolid rock and roll beats, the best of which is the driving thump under Revolution, laid about with standard-issue hillbilly violin and single-coil country and rock guitar licks. It could be your local pub jam, although the blindfold listener would probably discern the Frisell signature in the dreamy, reverberant veil he draws over most of his work - note the Frisellian foot modelling Line 6's DL4 delay unit above (pictured by Monica Frisell).

Mainstream rock and country fans may enjoy some of the rock, slide and pedal-steel guitar interpretations here, but ears weaned from 60s pop onto jazz may just wish for something more colourful. Frisell has been the occasional bebopper (eg, three decades ago in Marc Johnson's Bass Desires group or on Arild Andersen's Molde Concert) but he's long made plain his discomfort with musical labels, and here once again he seems to disregard the role (conferred on him by the Wall Street Journal) of "most innovative and influential jazz guitarist of the past 25 years".

Mark Gilbert

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