It’s First Friday tonight and instead of gallery hopping I will be holding court in RoCo. I wish Leo could have been here for his opening but I know that was not meant to be. We drove by Rochester Contemporary yesterday and saw that their windows were all papered over. I came awake last night worried about one of my charcoal drawings. Am I obsessing or is that one not holding its own with the other twenty? I think the answer is “both.” I’d like to take it home, rework it and bring it back.
We stopped out at MCC for an opening last night. Monica Frisell was showing photos from her “Looking Forward: Portraits from an RV” series. If that name sounds familiar she is the daughter of a famous guitar player. And her mom, Carole d’Inverno, had a fabulous show at MCC’s Mercer Gallery a couple of years ago. This is a talented family.
We chatted with Monica and Carole at the show and then left for Ossia’s first performance of the year at Kilbourn Hall. On the way out we ran into Bill who was out walking Monica’s dog. Peggi asked if she could take a photo. We told him we were planning to send the photo to Bob Martin in Chicago and tell Bob that Phil didn’t work out and we had hired this guy.
We were standing in front of the Rochester Club Ballroom but weren’t headed there. We were in the long line for Kilbourn and it was still an hour before the show when I spotted Bill Frisell heading into Brenunzio’s guitar shop on East Ave. I snapped this shot and then got back in line. The woman in front of us, who was also in line for the Frisell show, turned to us and said, “This is and embarrassing question but what instrument does Bill Frisell play?” Popularity comes with a price. After ten years the lines are longer than ever, the shows are more crowded and it’s getting harder to find alternatives to “festival favorites” like Bonarama or The Shuffle Demons.
Frisell opened with some really gnarly, prog stuff and then settled into one of his trademark, lazy, country blues things but the band never really gelled for me. I was always aware of the parts, Frisells restrained control, the plunked violin, the scattershot drums and I couldn’t hear the whole. It all felt rather tedious. We spotted Bob Martin in usual Frisell spot, right behind the sound board. He said he was having dinner with Frisell between sets. Maybe he’ll have the skinny.
In a repeat of 2005 we started the Festival with the Bill Frisell Trio at Kilbourn Hall. There was a lot more interplay with this trio than the last one. Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen are great players and fun to watch. I wish Bill had given them a little space of their own but it is Bill’s band after all. The show started with about five minutes of bird sounds and they worked the tweets into the first tune. Bill was was wearing the dumpiest white sport coat you’ve ever seen. He handles his effects boxes, including the one labeled Kook”, with exceptional flair. You are always aware that they are part of his sound but they are never obtrusive. Each song was distinct from the next and they ranged from Dead-like wandering to Monk swing with some very pretty stuff in between.
We ran into Jeff Spevak and Margaret and Martin Edic and Bill and Geri and Sharon from the Genesee Center for the Arts all coming out of the first show of Billy Bang. Everyone was smiling and raving about the the last number they had just heard, Ornette’s “Lonely Woman”.
Along with their sponsorship bucks Xerox has opened the doors to their beautiful performing arts center. We had front row seats for Billy Bang and the band sounded tremendous in this venue. I remember being here in the mid seventies for jazz shows. The stage is low and wide open. Billy had his regular touring piano player and drummer and a new bass player, Hilliard Green, who looked and sounded like Willie Dixon. Look at this guy. He’s standing up back there but getting down! Billy also brought along a trumpet player for some reason. We’ve seen these guys many times and they are always great. Gutsy, they swing and take it to the edge, reworking Billy’s beautiful, haunting, Viet Nam melodies so they never get old.
Billy Bang’s drummer did an old fashioned spoon solo during their version of “All Blues”. Rochester loves Bang. Billy scored a few songs for for Rochester’s Garth Fagan Dance and Garth told Bang, “Billy, you’ve got to play your solo the same way each time because I have arranged these movements for my dancers. ” Billy told the crowd, “Garth taught me how to play Billy Bang”.
Bob Martin, who plays guitar with Margaret Explosion, arranged for Claudia Engelhart, Bill Frisell’s live sound engineer, to talk about her craft for Bob’s business client, BSW. Frisell was in Buffalo last night so Bob got some free tickets. Ken Frank, Peggi and I met at Bob’s office and got in his VW for the trip to Buffalo. The four of us (that would be all of Margaret Explosion) were going to have dinner when we got there and the trip usually takes about an hour. It was snowing and the expressway was moving pretty slowly. We passed a few cars that had spun off the road and decided to wait until we we got to the New York State Thruway to see if it was in any better shape. It wasn’t so we turned around and came back.
It was still snowing when we woke up and we have another ten inches or so coming today. We’re supposed to play at at the Little tonight. We will have to do some shoveling and skiing first.