Looking at the lineup of Paul Motian (drums)‚ Joe Lovano (saxophone) and Bill Frisell (guitar)‚ one thing is immediately obvious: the absence of a bass player. Seeing and hearing the trio live‚ it is the last thing you think of.
Paul Motian is a 77-year-old legend who has played with everyone from Thelonious Monk to Keith Jarrett to Joshua Redman. As the elder statesmen of the trio‚ and the author of the majority of their catalogue‚ he is the de facto leader -- though you wouldn't really notice that from the way the group moves as one. Paul also abstains from solos‚ leaving that to his capable bandmates.
When Lovano stepped up to solo‚ I expected Frisell to take on the role of the bass player‚ supplying a steady low-end. Instead‚ more often than not he supported the saxophone solos with some of the more creative guitar playing I have ever heard. Bill's trademark sound (rather‚ one of his trademark sounds) comes from his extensive use of pedals to distort‚ loop and bend his guitar lines in ways that just don't seem possible to us mortals. It's the sound we have come to love and expect from Bill‚ but it is not the sound one normally hears behind a saxophone solo‚ especially at the Village Vanguard.
But it worked wonderfully both as support and in solos. Over Motian's 'less is more' drumming‚ Frisell filled the room with his strange sounds‚ to the great delight of the crowd. The drummer and guitarist have developed a nearly telepathic interplay -- constantly finding and creating spaces to compliment one another's playing.
The trio gelled more and more as the night went on. By the end Joe was doing an impressive job of imitating Bill's guitar lines on his sax‚ without the aid of any effects.
They swung through a number of fast-moving bebop songs as well as several slower ballads‚ allowing all three musicians ample space to stretch out. The club became even more intimate when Bill extended one tune with a few minutes of tender‚ expressive soloing. A few seconds after Bill ended the song by tapping his volume pedal‚ Paul dug into the next and final tune with a chugging beat.
Bill was all smiles as he and Joe came back in to finish the set. And so was the audience.
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