Last night was the first night of Bill-Fest Three for us (four nights at SFJazz). Bill is Bill Frisell. I became acquainted with Bill in about 1994 and spend a part of almost every day with him. He is a prolific and unusual jazz guitarist, who makes my life better. He has been a resident artistic director (which basically means he has the opportunity to do some cool stuff that interests him that result in concerts for the rest of us).
Bill got a so-so review in the NY Times for a recent concert. The basis of the review seemed to be that he didn’t explain what he was doing or trying to say, and that he didn’t lead his fellow musicians enough–that he let them each go their own way within the music.
Bill is extremely shy. I’ve seen him do a Q&A and he just isn’t skilled at articulating in a way his audience might want. So when he finally got up after the first 25 minute piece he made a short statement about the music, and asked if we wanted him to talk more, then said “I’m going to talk more, . . . but not now.” His musical skill is such that, although I would really like knowing more, not knowing has never interfered with my enjoyment and discovery when listening to his music. And given the territory he has covered, it is understandable he might not have had time to put it into words.
One of the things I love about concerts is the time it gives me to ruminate. This isn’t something that I have a lot of time for, so it allows me to puzzle through design problems, or just look at things more carefully. And I always get a little swatching done before the performance and during any intermission (love concerts without an intermission–just give me the good stuff and let me go home)! I got to start swatching a not-yet-released yarn which is always thrilling.
About an hour into the concert the power went out. Emergency lights come on, but understandably this threw the musicians for a bit of a loop. The SFJazz folks conferred and the musicians left the stage, but returned shortly, with Bill carrying an acoustic guitar. The concert went on. It was amazing. It was like sitting in on a more private session. The acoustics are great in the venue, and although not the same as a mic-ed concert, they managed to do almost another hour of music. They did a version of “In my Room” by the Beach Boys that was just jaw dropping. Can’t wait for tonight! I’ll let you know if he talks.
But the whole point of this post is to say that it is difficult to talk about my work. It rattles around in my head all the time, but I don’t always have time to think about how to talk about it or even know what anyone else wants to know. Concerts help because they give me some time. Although not extremely shy, I don’t think I ever learned to “toot my own horn” and in fact, was discouraged from doing so.