Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Bill Frisell and Viola Boldt at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 3/3/09

In a rare duo show with Viola Boldt – a Lucinda Williams sidewoman who plays violin – Bill Frisell reaffirmed his reputation as the most important and most captivating jazz guitarist of our time. In the same vein as his performance on the landmark double live cd East/West, it was a characteristically casual yet absolutely riveting show, like being in his living room. Literally, because Barbes is a small place. It was no surprise that for anyone who arrived close to showtime, it was impossible to get inside the small inner room where the two were playing until at least a half-hour into their long, practically two-hour set. Mixing originals with some surprising covers, the two let the melodies unwind slowly and conversationally, Boldt aptly providing atmospheric, sometimes stark sheets of sound against Frisell’s deliberate, warmly melodic, thoughtfully chordal pacing.


Frisell’s style has evolved to the point where it is neither highly ornamented nor particularly flashy. He adheres to the principles of minimalism – not a single wasted note – yet his sound is full, no matter how few notes he may be playing. His tempos were typically slow and ruminative, yet he always remained a step ahead of the listener, using mostly downstrokes and employing nonstandard tuning [sounded like dropped D – anyone at the show actually get close to the stage?]. What was most impressive was that he didn’t even employ his trusty loop pedal, nor for that matter any effects: it was just a man and his guitar and a violinist who understood perfectly what was going on and became an integral part of it.


Most of the show featured Frisell’s trademark melodic, invitingly contemplative, Americana-inflected sonic vistas, the high point being a gorgeous, understatedly clanging cover of Ventura by Lucinda Williams. As the outro came around, Frisell grinned and effortlessly worked his way around the scale in a cozy circle of major thirds to end it on a subtly triumphant note. They maintained the upbeat feel on a blues number that Boldt grinningly recounted having to remind Williams how to play. The duo also ran through a tersely ominous series of permutations on the opening theme to Frisell’s superb History/Mystery cd from last year.


Boldt is also an excellent singer, delivering tastefully uncluttered, clear vocals on a couple of tunes. And she matched Frisell’s trademark deadpan humor on a playful jam on You Are My Sunshine that they used to close the set. Shows like this are yet another reminder why we New Yorkers stay put, year after year despite all the hassles.


Frisell’s upcoming tour kicks off on March 15 at the Continental Club in Austin, returning to NYC on May 12 for a six-night stand at the Vanguard with his Trio featuring Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. Boldt is back at Barbes playing with another excellent Americana-inflected guitarist, Robbie Fulks every Tuesday in March at 7ish.

March 4, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. You made several fine points there. I did a search on the topic and found a good number of people will agree with your blog.

    Comment by Archie Heinsohn | December 16, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: