Good Stuff for the 4th

MB had friday off work and then she took a vacation day on Monday, so we had a nice four-day weekend together. Friday was a kind of putzy day, painted a bathroom that really needed painting, got the last of the plants in the ground that we’ve been trying to plant for a month or so, drank some good beer (Left Hand Warrior IPA, semi-sweet but a pretty good hop bite at the end) and went out to dinner.

Saturday, our good friends John and Hilary from Minneapolis came to town for the night.  It’s always great to see them. The day was oddly rainy and kind of cool for the 4th of July but it was just right for us. We thought about going down to the I.C. jazz fest but decided we’d rather cook out and hang out with a good bottle of wine (or two) and talk. The weather cleared and it was a beautiful summer evening. Kebobs on the grill with cous-cous, a nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape that John brought, lemon cake and berries, and good conversation late into the evening. Fireworks surrounded us but all at a distance, some lights arcing above the trees, but mostly flashes and lots of noise. Really a perfect 4th for us.

Sunday morning we went for a nice hike on the Sac and Fox trail with J & H, some pretty good birding considering how dense the foliage is now (and John taught me the Common Yellowthroat’s song so that now I can recognize it). After J&H headed up to Minneapolis, MB and I headed down to the Jazz fest. We saw just a bit of Chris Potter. It sounded good, but it was a little more dissonant than we were in the mood for at that point. But the combo of Bill Frisell followed by Dave Holland was brilliant all around.

I have been a long time Frisell fan. Now he’s not exactly what I’d call energizing music (for that, see upcoming comments about Dave Holland or last year’s fest with Bonerama and Medeski, Martin, and Wood). The music is rather hypnotic. It was really perfect for a hot summer afternoon with the sun setting behind him as he worked his loops, and echoes, and delays to sublime effect, circling around themes and teasing them out, easing in to strains of Americana classics and dissolving into some molten psychedelia and back out. As much as I’m a fan of Frisell, though, what really made this show was the cornet of Ron Miles. His sound was absolutely crystalline and fit in with Frisell’s guitar work brilliantly, at times the two of them melding into one distinct sound, at times perfectly complementing and counterpointing.Their version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was stunning, fresh and innovative while still carrying the emotional depth of Cooke’s original. As I say, it’s not jump out of your seats music, it’s much more about subtlety and sonic textures and landscapes. Really a lovely, lovely set. Here’s a video I found of Bill with Ron Miles. They didn’t have the sax with them, and this drummer is different (but Tony Scheer was on bass), but I wanted a video that caught Frisell and Miles, so enjoy:

Dave Holland I was not as familiar with. Certainly I know him from his famous work on bass with Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew era and know his name quite well, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the end, I think that made it an even better show for me. His band is simply stellar: Robin Eubanks on Trombone, Chris Potter on saxophone, Steve Nelson on Vibes, and Nate Smith on drums. Like Frisell’s set, this was also about exploring sonic landscapes, and they covered a wide range of textures and emotions, all of them were driven by Holland’s stunning basswork. But unlike Frisell, this music was at times jump out of your seats music. They received many long standing ovations throughout the show as the band played with an unbridled passion and energy. Each member of the band is an incredible soloist, but what really moved me was the ensemble work. When all went together, the musical textures created an amazing tapestry of sounds that would almost feel as if it were going to explode, that it would be impossible to pull back together but just at the edge of real chaos Holland would pull them back in.  “Secret Garden” highlighted some great improv solos and numbers like “Lucky Seven” and “Easy Did It” really highlighted the ensemble work. A great, great show. Here’s a clip of “Easy Did It” from last fall, unfortunately a very short clip and they’re really just getting rolling as it ends, but a bit of a sense of what the quintet sound is:

Then, finally, for Monday MB and I went biking along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. A perfect sunny, warm, breezy day. We got back and made barbecued tempeh on the grill, put it in sandwiches with roasted poblanos and another really nice evening. As I said, the perfect long weekend for us. And we hope you enjoyed your holiday as well.

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