Bill Frisell and Ambrose Akinmusire

2023-02-17 Hardly Raining

Bill Frisell FOUR and the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet played an introspective jazz double bill at the Moore Theatre on February 17, 2023. Both artists have released their recent work on the iconic Blue Note label.

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire opened the evening, joined by Sam Harris (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Tim Angulo (drums). Their hour-long set emphasized free sections and extended solos. Complex and avant garde, it employed plenty of odd meter and dissonance, although also included some sweet floating ballads. Akinmusire’s compositions encompassed the whole dynamic range, from dense driving drums, to spare long tones. With few pauses for banter or titles, the tunes flowed into one another, creating gradual shifts in mood.

FOUR took the stage after an intermission. The group featured the great Bill Frisell (guitar), Gregory Tardy (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Gerald Clayton (piano), and Rudy Royston (drums)—and, unusually, no bass. True to Frisell’s style, tunes were gentle, whispering, and inventive, inviting the audience to listen closer. Royston’s drums were notable for their precision and lightness, Tardy’s reeds were playful and pretty, and Clayton’s comping was tasteful. FOUR played several of Frisell’s originals, a couple of jazz and blues standards, and a tender slow version of “We Shall Overcome” as the encore. My only quibble was the missed opportunity for a Frisell–Akinmusire duet.

Both Frisell and Akinmusire left the stage to applause from an attentive house. From Seattle, they traveled south to play sold-out performances at the Portland Jazz Festival.

Bill Frisell: “We Shall Overcome” (2021)
Ambrose Akinmusire: On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment (2020)