Guitarist Bill Frisell is scheduled to perform a two-night program titled “For Portland Only” at the Portland Jazz Festival at the end of February. The first night’s performance, on the 24th, will take place at The Crystal Ballroom, and will feature the ever-innovative axman and his band paying tribute to the works of pedal steel guitarist Wesley Webb “Speedy” West and guitarist/fiddler/producer Jimmy Bryant, as well as pop icon John Lennon. On the following evening, the 25th, at The Newmark Theatre, Frisell will play a solo set before delivering a performance with his 858 Quartet, which includes Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola and Hank Roberts on cello. The 858 Quartet will perform material off their recent release Sign of Life.
The legacies of Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant are among the most enduring of all country instrumentalists. The virtuosity of the two musicians allowed them to combine a multitude of genres: country, jazz, boogie, blues and even Hawaiian ballads. Their careers peaked in the 1950s and early ’60s but they continued to record sporadically together into the 1970s.
“I’d never heard anything like it,” Frisell says of West and Bryant’s work. “The more I listened, the deeper and deeper it seemed to get. The labels—jazz, country, swing—started melting away, which is one thing I always look and hope for in my own music. I was hearing pure music on the highest level.”
“John Lennon’s music has been with me, the band, everybody, the world … seems like forever,” the Seattle-based guitarist continues. “The songs are part of us, and it’s in our blood. There was nothing we really needed to do to prepare for this, as we’ve been preparing our whole lives. The songs are there, and all we had to do was play them. Everyone involved has their own personal, deep, long relationship to John Lennon’s music, and it connects and brings us together.”
For ticket pricing and more information, go to www.pdxjazz.com.
Photo credit: Jimmy Katz