It’s the first weekend of the 2018 London Jazz Festival. Actor and part-time jazzer Jeff Goldblum got the Cadogan Hall series off to flying start last night according to the Guardian. We’re back this late afternoon (well 5:30pm sharp) for a Bill Frisell solo set.
It’s just Bill, a customised Fender Telecaster (with an acoustic to his other side), an array of effects pedals and a pile of what appeared to be fluffy reindeers. I’d seen Frisell at the Jazz Cafe last year in a trio format and was looking forward to experiencing the contrast.
There’s no setlist at Bill’s feet and it is clear as he takes the stage that this quiet, avuncular figure is just going to play this by ear. Drawing upon his most recent set on Okeh Records, this year’s Music Is, the set was made of a handful of improvisations, extrapolations and interpretations. Starting with an angular series of figures taken up and down the neck with some plucked harmonics, the first piece was possibly the hardest sell of the set.
As the gig moves on, the guitar pedals come more to the fore. Bill uses them to loop sequences, play along and then ditch them, only to bring them back in when you least expect it. The loops are played backwards too with the occasional use of distortion, particular on a countermelody to Burt Bacharach’s What The World Needs Now.
A version of Goldfinger is stunning, using the tremolo arm to emphasise the repeated classic James Bond figure. It eventually morphs into a gorgeous suitably quiet version of John McLaughlin’s vamp from Miles Davis’s In A Silent Way.
After a short break, Bill returns for a sublime take on the Beatles’ In My Life which bleeds into Give Peace A Chance. Bill puts his hands together in praise, walks to the rear of the stage and he’s gone.
It was somewhat of a mixed fare with something there for everyone. Beautiful, angular, emotional with the occasional lack of brevity or a desire to explore depending on your perspective.
It was uniquely Bill Frisell though. There’s Bill and only Bill.