Bill Frisell and Friends

Wendy and I worked together at a small tech company for a couple of years. We’ve stayed in touch since then and recently she pinged me about getting together to catch up. She suggested checking out the first night of Bill Frisell’s residency at Yoshi’s Oakland. Sarah wanted to come along too, so we all got there early to have  dinner and thereby get good seats for the show. It was actually the first time I’d eaten there, and I wasn’t disappointed. The calamari appetizer, the edamame and, the sushi were all really good.

I knew Wendy wasn’t a big Frisell fan, so I was a little surprised. But this was part of her project to do something different from her usual routine each day for a year. Luckily for her, Thursday night wasn’t experimental music night, but rather Frisell’s more country music-oriented project. The announced line-up included bassist Tony Scherr, drummer Kenny Wollesen, avant-guitarist Marc Ribot and pedal-steel player Greg Leisz, as well as a special surprise mystery guest from Nashville: Buddy Miller.

The result was a country set of songs layered with beautiful steel guitar work, extended harmonic space, and a sprinkling of Frisell’s melodic lines.With three guitarists and a steel player, there was not a whole lot of room for Frisell to stretch out, and I’ll admit to a little disappointment not to get more from him. Marc Ribot also contributed and sang several songs, giving the set a darker and noisier edge on several songs. Ribot plays guitar like a man having a seizure, and that angular energy gives you the feeling that something unexpected is going to happen any second.

With all that, Buddy Miller was really the star of this show. I had seen Miller when he toured with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and enjoyed his work on that project, but I didn’t really get a sense of his depth. Last night was different. From his wonderful singing and solid playing, to his hilarious stage banter, he’s a great musician and tremendously entertaining.

Miller and Frisell have recently finished recording together in Nashville with a number of guest artists and singers. Much of this set consisted of songs recorded in that session. Needless to say, I’m already really looking forward to the CD coming out.

  • Love the pics (how'd you do that without getting tossed on your ear –like the drunk guy). Great review – I totally agree that Buddy was the star. Loved his voice. Loved the banter and loved his playing – oh and I loved that it wasn't the experimental stuff!