Learning Lennon: Guitar Master Bill Frisell

Originally published December 2011

Robert Baird writes .....

For the musically prolific, releasing too many records too close together can be problematic or worse. Just because you can make a record every week in your home studio doesn't mean you should. The impulse to commit every golden thought and performance to tape without self-editing or even pausing to reflect screams narcissism run amok. Asking listeners—even dedicated fans—to then buy and spend time listening to half-baked nonsense that might have become something, given more time and care, is a sure career destroyer. There's truth in the old saw about building demand, avoiding saturation, and creating a hunger among the listening public. Most critical of all, despite downloads, piracy, and Lady Gaga's pointy hats and eggshell entrances, the old Hollywoodism still applies: while spontaneity may sound like a radical idea, you're only as good as your last album.All of which makes guitarist Bill Frisell very, very good: He's one of the few musicians of any genre who can keep up a constant torrent of new records, every one exciting, engaging, or, at the very least, entertaining. His latest album—at least, it was the last when this issue went to print—is All We Are Saying . . ., a typically oblique and utterly successful Frisell-ian take on the music of John Lennon, from both his solo and Beatle years. The easy grace and fertile imaginings of the performances again give rise to questions that have become ever more relevant over the 30-plus records Frisell has made since the mid-1980s: Is there anything the man can't play uniquely on guitar? He's played .....

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