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Friday, December 30, 2005

Veirs ~ Frisell

~ Seattle Weekly Year in Review ~

I know I bang on about the hugely talented Laura Veirs and genius fretmaestro Bill Frisell (late of this parish), but I am at long-last vindicated by none other than that arbiter of all that's cool, Seattle Weekly.

Ace review of 2005 by the Weekly's music writers in the clever form of a 2-CD compilation of favorite local tracks.

Take a bow:

  • Laura Cassidy
  • Michaelangelo Matos (splendid name!)
  • The ever-readable Neal Schindler
  • Rachel Shimp
  • Kate Silver
  • In at #15, Laura Veirs' Magnetized from her Year of Meteors album.

    Quoth the reviewers,

    "Gorgeous lyrics ("I was slain/By your olivine eyes") and a haunting, slow-burning melody make this the most affecting song on the local singer-songwriter's excellent new album."

    At #21, Bill Frisell's I Heard It Through the Grapevine from the 'live' East/West tour-de-force:

    "The Marvin Gaye classic, reinvented as a slow-burning jazz-guitar trio meditation, recorded live in California. It ends our mix, appropriately, with a round of applause."

    And if you haven't added that to your collection ... DO SO sans delay.

    I trust the folks at Nonesuch are pleased. Such a clever label and what a Who's Who of the best music makers.

    Autograph stalker: I used to see Frisell on the ferry but never plucked the nerve to engage him in chat, so I took to carrying choice individual CDs around so I could get them signed.

    I have a somewhat snooty albeit knowledgeable London pal whose eclectic collection defines cool to the point of verging on the obscure - Giuffre, Motian, Patricia Barber, Jan Garbarek, Carla Bley, Paco de Lucia, Willy POrter, Mikkelborg, Bad Plus, di Meola, that crowd.

    He visited me last year and was running a well-manicured finger along my own bourgeois collection when he stopped:

    "Goodness - Bill Frisell, no less? Well done  ... I wouldn't have thought you were the type to have caught onto him. (Pompous ass - and me the king of 3-chord plunking). Mind if we give Nashville a spin?"

    He takes it out and goes over the stereo. Opens the jewel case:

    "To Chris - Thanks for listening.
    Bill Frisell"

    B'boum! Collapse of effete party.

    I remember nailing that one: Bill was wandering around trying to get a signal for his phone so I oozed up to his wife and asked if it might be ok to ask him to sign an album. Lovely smile. Certain he'd be thrilled.

    As he was when he saw my choice.

    "THE ultimate road-trip album," I gushed. A laugh. He hadn't thought of it that way.

    Such  a nice guy. Defining modesty.

    Another time, following him onto the ferry and marveling at the shabby guitar case and wondering which instrument it contained. I don't see them any more but that was a time when moussed youths would sit quietly strumming their power chords.

    Bill's gait paused ever so slightly as he passed and the bloke looked up, saw this homely bank manager type incongruously carrying a guitar and went back to his thrumming.

    It was just a perfect little cameo in my day and I wished I could have said something to Bill, but it would have been something disgustingly groveling along the lines of, "Little did he know, chuckle" that Bill would have been right to ignore.

    Such a nice guy.

    Follow-up: Good comment by James Marcus, author of Amazonia, his fascinating account of time in Château Bezosia and well worth reading.

    You need have no interest in the early workings of this behemoth to appreciate JM's wit and fine style.

    Marcus was employee 55, one of Amazon's first editors, and his is the real story.

    Also check out his cool blog.

    James's other nominee for Best Live Album of 2005 is Kelly Joe Phelps's Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind, of which here's the review of Whirlwind.

    Hey, thanks! I need all the Bill Frisell anecdotes I can get. The guy is my hero.

    Did you get the Further East/Further West set to augument the last live release? Just as good, with ace interpretations of "Lost Highway" and "Shenandoah."

    James Marcus
    I did *not*, and thanks for the tip: am rectifying sans delay.
    Chris, you're making me blush--cut it out! Meanwhile I seem to have crammed two errors into that tiny comment. I meant augment, not augument. And "Shenandoah" appears on the initial East/West set, not the online-only follow-up. But Further East/Further West does include kickin' versions of "Lost Highway," "Masters of War," "What the World Needs Now" (who but Frisell would rescue this three-hankie tune from the mothball department?), plus a snarling spin on "Lookout for Hope" and various other goodies. My dark secret: if they put out a third set, I'll buy that too.
    Lee - You reading this? No joke: next New York gig by Bill, might be worth slipping James a back-stage pass for 2 (literati tend to have birds in tow). There'd a be a decent blog's worth PR innit.
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