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Frisell, Clarke, Hiromi and Spectrum Road at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival

Russ Davis of MOJA Radio on four special performances from the noted festival

Hiromi with Stanley Clarke
Spectrum Road

On Thursday, the 28th of June, the 33rd Montreal Jazz Festival had already begun with the first of the hundreds of free, outdoor shows which start at about 2 to 4 PM, each afternoon by the time I made my way inside the Club Soda to attend my first show at 6 PM to hear eclectic guitarist Bill Frisell who has lately chosen to tour his salute to John Lennon titled All We Are Saying! As soon as I enter the dark, multi-level space I notice the makeup of the crowd and it strikes me that this is the same audience that would show up if John Lennon himself were performing. There are 50 and 60-somethings, some with Beatle and John Lennon t-shirts, and only a sprinkling of 20 or 30-somethings who were probably coaxed to come along with Mom & Dad to help them celebrate some of the great music of their lives, the songs of John Lennon as performed by one of the greats of modern jazz guitar.

Bill and his fab four of Kenny Wollesen on drums, Tony Scherr on bass and Greg Leisz on steel guitar, choose to start the show on a slower, more mystical note with three songs that show the deep, gentle side of Lennon’s music. The set starts with “Across The Universe,” “Beautiful Boy,” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” The crowd is relaxed and appreciative, responding with glee each time a familiar melody is established. I can’t help but think that Bill is presenting John Lennon as the “Mystical Beatle” equal to George Harrison with these song choices, arrangements and considering how the dreamy twang of the steel guitar blends with Frisell’s playing to create this spacey quality. Then the tempo picks up with songs like “Please, Please Me,” and a rousing version of “Come Together” that is the peak of the show for me. The crowd would not let the band leave for very long until they agreed to an encore at which time Frisell said “There are so many of these songs, it’s crazy.” The crowd calls out for specific tunes that they haven’t heard so far and the band rips into a couple then leave the stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. A splendid time was had by all!

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