It seemed tentative at first. There was a bit of tuning. Then Bill Frisell started something more substantial on guitar. Eyvind Kang added colors with the violin and Rudy Royston accented on drums. Now and then, Bill or Eyvind would crouch down and fiddle with knobs on the electronics boxes on the floor.
It was the pleasure of sound. They all just found their way, with no real theme-solo-solo-solo-theme format that most people expect with a jazz trio. Just sound and surprises (they frequently smiled at each other). But yet, there was structure. Red folders with scores were brought out and set up on music stands. I think a Monk tune was in there somewhere, maybe second. Eventually they played "Keep On The Sunny Side," eliciting a murmur of amused recognition from the crowd. I wish A.P. Carter could have been there to hear his melody pushed and pulled. It morphed into "Baba Drame," a highlight from one of his most shimmering records, The Intercontinentals, from 2003.
I had been reading earlier in the day about the new “cloud” computer craze, how everything from your hard drive, software, operating system to all your digital files and music can be stored in a secure place floating in the air (a fancy way of saying “online”), accessible anywhere you go.
Watching Bill, it struck me that maybe our minds are like that already. His seems to be, pulling quotes out of nowhere, accessing an iPod’s worth of musical history at a moment’s notice. And as I thought about how to describe the sound of the band, the cloud idea persisted. At times they drift serenely, with the gentlest variations, rows and flows of angel hair. At others, they are bristling with shapes, constantly shifting. Now dull grey, now shot through and blazing with sunlight.
Look (or listen) back at any moment and the sky can look startlingly different. Just what jazz oughta be.
The forecast looks good for Bill fans, by the way. Visit the Savoy Jazz site and they’re promoting an even newer record (Beautiful Dreamers, with Eyvind and Rudy, came out last August), and teasing the fall release of Bill's interpretations of John Lennon music.