I never understood how garage bands got away with it. I remember hearing bands practice in a garage in the sixties and they were as loud as hell. They were usually playing in the afternoon, when the grown ups in the house weren’t home. The walls of garages aren’t even insulated. The neighbors wouldn’t stand for it. Basements make much better practice spaces.
Now garage art is something I understand. I was a garage painter in the eighties when I painted this series of “Community Icons.” It was easy for me to pick these archetypes, the foundation of any city, in 1989. It got me thinking about who I would choose today.
“The Role Model,” above is one of 16 from that series. They were big paintings, 54″ wide by “60” high, on the back of billboard paper. You can see the whole series here: “Community Icons.“
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”.
We have been lucky to see Billy Bang so many times. We first saw him at Red Creek in the seventies when he was playing in Sun Ra’s band. He has played here three times during the Jazz Fest and Garth Fagan hired him to perform live for one of his dance pieces in Greece. Tom Kohn had him at the Bop Shop in the Atrium a few times with different line-ups.
The lineup tonight at the German House was one of my favorite configurations – a trio called FAB with Joe Fonda on bass, Barry Altschul on drums and Billy Bang on violin. All three are amazng players and improvisors. In this setting Billy is as melodic as ever but the band is not just here to support Billy. This is an exciting three way street. We sat with Jeff Munson and took in the sights with our eyes closed.