One of the shows I was looking forward to within the excellent program of this year’s festival was Bill Frisell: Music For Strings. Frisell, in musical partnership with long time collaborators Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola and Hank Roberts on cello, re-visited gems from his own catalogue plus other compositions, notably Burt Bacharach and the theme to the TV show Bonanza, which ended the concert as second encore. The 4 musicians drifted between arrangements that felt more Americana and some like contemporary classical pieces, never forgetting the beauty of the basic melody in each tune. The concert again showed how great Frisell’s compositions are and that they can shine, no matter what instrumentation he decides upon. In this case Scheinman, Kang and Roberts were the perfect partners and created a laid back atmosphere to enjoy this great music. A deserved standing ovation showed the appreciation of Frisell’s art by the audience.
The concert of John Medeski’s Mad Skillet on Sunday, November 12th, could be described as ‘Sun Ra visits New Orleans’, as the quartet with Medeski on piano and organ, Will Bernard on guitar, Kirk Joseph on tuba and Julian Addison on drums, grooved their way through some impressive originals that the band has recorded for their forthcoming new album, as well as ‘Golden Lady’ by Sun Ra, which completely fitted in with the rest of this psychedelic groove gig. Medeski is a master on the Hammond B3 and the rest of the gang did some great soloing as well were extremely tight as a group. Couldn’t keep my feet still ….. this is going to be one hell of a festival act!!
After New Orleans, the next gig took me on Tuesday night to Memphis, birth place of the unique singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. Dee Dee brought the Memphis Soulphony with her to perform songs from her new album ‘Memphis…Yes, I am ready’ and did so in style! Dee Dee is probably one of the greatest singers of our time – whether she does Jazz or Soul – it doesn’t matter – she makes the songs her own and delivers without fail. This project is a step back into her teenage years and the music she listened to then, but putting her own stamp on these compositions. One of the many highlights of the 2 hours show was Pops Staples ‘Why (Am I Treated So Bad)’ with an explanation of the roots of this song and a performance that was full of emotion and power. The band with Farindell Smith on keyboards and organ, Barry Campbell on bass, Charlton Johnson on guitar, Carlos Sargent on drums, Curtis Pulliam on trumpet, Bryant Lockhart on saxes, as well as singers Monet Owens and Shontelle Norman was absolutely incredible and helped Dee Dee to deliver her vocals on the highest level. Her story telling between the songs was interesting and funny, but maybe for some of the audience, which didn’t understand English, a bit too much. All i9n all one of the best shows of the year – Dee is still on tour with this program for a while – don’t miss it!!!