A few years ago, in a DownBeat interview with Nels Cline and Marc Ribot, I asked the esteemed guitarists about their first inspirations. Their eyes lit up when the Ventures popped into the conversation – each marveled over absorbing the iconic instrumental band as teens. Both are baby boomers, as is their contemporary, Bill Frisell, whose Guitar In The Space Age! opens with “Pipeline” and closes with “Telstar,” two of the Ventures’ most famous tracks. Seems the music we all grew up with is always rolling around in our brains somewhere, often with a big dose of affection attached.
Guitar In The Space Age! milks that sensibility. Frisell, who was 12 in 1963 and did a good job recasting John Lennon’s music a couple years ago, rolls through ‘60s jewels on this one. Call it New Frontier music as played by a graying progressive as unencumbered by sentiment as he is unafraid of experimentation. From Duane Eddy to the Beach Boys to Link Wray, these gems are laced with shimmer and spark. Team Frisell includes bassist Tony Scherr, drummer Kenny Wolleson, and guitarist Greg Leisz. Together they circle ‘round the melodies while offering a bit of expansion in the groove department. No flipping the apple cart here – the boss’s longstanding genuflection to melody wins on each track, and rightly so. The essence of the originals needs to be sustained for this squad to work its magic.
Politeness dominates. Even performances that could turn aggro – “Rumble” and “Messing With the Kid,” say – stay calm. And ballads such as “Surfer Girl” and “Tired Of Waiting” glide on a sheen that finds Leisz and the leader melding their strings as if consonance was nirvana. The country tracks that bubble up swing with a bar band’s nonchalance. “Cannonball Rag” and “Bryant’s Bounce” are snuck into the program to remind the kind of brilliance that was lurking in twangville during that time. Song-wise, Frisell is always on a treasure hunt (see his update of Madonna’s “Live To Tell” from ’93) and these nuggets from the “duck and cover” era gather steam when corralled together. Heard as a suite, it’s a portrait of a long-ago time painted by a guy who always has an eye on the future, whether it includes a jet pack or not.
It hasn’t been all Blondie, Sabbath and Nirvana. Because they dig sophisticated blends of eloquent jitter-swing and stormy rumination, The Bad Plus – the rogue piano/bass/drums outfit initially heralded for exploding pop and rock nuggets – has occasionally peppered its sets with Ornette Coleman tunes. “Song X” here, “Law Years” there – every time I’ve heard them launch into the master’s book, the almost giddy joy that’s defines his music has amped the trio’s action. (Don’t miss their spin through through “Street Woman.”) Now TBP is adding horns and turning to the entirety of Coleman’s 1972 opus, Science Fiction. Saxophonists Tim Berne (who rampaged through OC’s world with John Zorn in ‘89) and Sam Newsome connect with trumpeter Ron Miles in a front line that will magnify the frolic of anthems like “Happy House” and “School Work” while the trio keeps the grooves at a steady boil. They’ve said Ornette’s music is part of their DNA. Can’t wait to see the family resemblance.
Don’t forget that Joshua Light Show that will be blowing yr mind all night, too.
Thursday, Oct 23, 7:30 pm NYU Skirball Center for the Arts
The Bad Plus pianist knows the value of living history – he’s made a point of interacting with elders during the last few years, and to a one, come away with intriguing results. At 41 Iverson is about the half the age of his partner, a revered bass master who has become one of improvisation’s icons after a lifetime of extraordinary work. Their book of duets will stress standards, and the give ‘n’ take in such a cozy room – designed specifically for this kind of intimacy – will explode the goose pimple factor.
(This above is, of course, Ethan and Sam Newsome – included just to provide a glimpse at Iverson’s occasional strategies)
8:30 pm – $25, Mezzrow, 163 WEST 10TH STREET 646-476-4346 MACNIE
Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Never Catch Me”
Tyshawn Sorey, Alloy (Pi)
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder)
Spoon, They Want My Soul (Lorna Vista)
Iggy Azalea, New Classic (Def Jam)
Rory Block, Hard Luck Child (Stoney Plain)
Branford Marsalis, In My Solitude – Live at Grace Cathedral (Sony)
The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers (Matador)
Kenny Barron & Dave Holland, The Art of the Conversation (Impulse!)
Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast, Settle (NCM)
Conjure, “The Wardrobe Master of Paradise”
3rdEyeGirl ft. Prince, “Fixurlifeup”
Jesse Winchester, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble (Appleseed)
Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds (Island)
Vaudou Game, Apiafo (Hot Casa)
Hush Point, Blues and Reds (Sunnyside)
Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp, Cosmic Leider: The Darkside Recital (AUM Fidelity)