• Bill Frisell Plays John Lennon on the Fort Stage at the Newport Jazz Festival.
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    Bill Frisell Plays John Lennon on the Fort Stage at the Newport Jazz Festival.
    Erik Jacobs for NPR
  • Jenny Scheinman and Bill Frisell perform songs of John Lennon at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival. The two also performed as a duo.
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    Jenny Scheinman and Bill Frisell perform songs of John Lennon at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival. The two also performed as a duo.
    Erik Jacobs for NPR
  • The Bad Plus performed with one of its heroes, Bill Frisell, to pay tribute to another hero and colleague, the late drummer Paul Motian.
    Hide caption
    The Bad Plus performed with one of its heroes, Bill Frisell, to pay tribute to another hero and colleague, the late drummer Paul Motian.
    Erik Jacobs for NPR

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JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater

Bill Frisell On JazzSetWBGO-FM

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On a video promoting Bill Frisell's album All We Are Saying, the guitarist shares the depth of his connection to John Lennon's music: "I don't know if I'd be playing guitar if it weren't for The Beatles." Frisell tells the story of how, several tours ago, a European presenter asked Frisell's band to play a Lennon set. Afterwards, the players looked at each other and said, "Let's do this for the whole tour!" It became the blueprint for the album. In performance, they don't work from a set list; Frisell trusts the band. His guitar sets up the songs, which flow from one to the next with almost no breaks. Frisell is at the center; pedal-steel player Greg Leisz is audience left.

Jenny Scheinman has worked in Frisell's band for a decade. In addition to performing a duo set of Scheinman's music for fiddle and guitar, she's in the band for the Lennon set. Her own quartet Mischief and Mayhem, with Nels Cline from Wilco, played live from the Village Vanguard two seasons ago.

By now, the members of The Bad Plus have stayed together longer than The Beatles. The trio came out of the Upper Midwest more than a decade ago, and has released a new album almost every year since. The Bad Plus and Bill Frisell share a deep appreciation for Paul Motian (1931-2011), a free-tempo drummer, bandleader, friend and role model for so many younger musicians. Frisell and Motian played on each other's records, beginning with Motian's It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago. At Newport, Frisell joins The Bad Plus for a performance of the title tune. In spite of all the distractions that come with playing outdoors, the song is spellbinding; the audience claps for almost a minute. We trimmed the applause, but the emotion is intact.

Set List And Personnel

Jenny Scheinman, violin; Bill Frisell, guitar

  • "Rag" (Frisell)
  • "Thirteen Days" (Scheinman)

Frisell, guitar; Jenny Scheinman, violin; Greg Leisz, pedal steel; Tony Scherr, bass; Kenny Wolleson, drums

  • "Beautiful Boy" (Lennon)
  • "Come Together" (Lennon & Paul McCartney)
  • "In My Life" (Lennon & McCartney)

The Bad Plus: Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; Dave King, drums; Frisell, guitar

  • "It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago" (Motian)
  • "Abacus" (Motian)
Credits

Recordings by Antonio Oliart of WGBH, David Tallacksen with Michael Downes of WBGO, and Steve Remote of Aurasonic Ltd. Surround Sound remixes by Antonio Oliart and Duke Markos.

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