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Bill Frisell Gave a Tour of His Musical Past at East High School Last Night

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"I'm stunned," guitarist Bill Frisell said to a crowd of over 900 people. He was standing on the stage in the auditorium of East High School, from which he graduated in 1969. "I can't believe this is happening. I used to have dreams like this. Really weird dreams too. I really don't know what to say. Actually, it was back then I figured out I couldn'tsay any words, so I just tried to play my guitar, and that's what I should do right now."

It was a bit surreal seeing the guitarist essentially flipping through his own musical diary, playing material from Guitar in the Space Age!, a collection of songs that inspired him to play guitar. Early in the set, Frisell, along with guitarist and pedal steel player Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wolleson, stretched out an extended take of the Kinks' "Tired of Waiting for You" and Duane Eddy's twangy "Rebel Rouser" before launching into "Walk, Don't Run," which was made famous by the Ventures and written by the late Colorado Springs-based jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, who Frisell studied with at the University of Northern Colorado.

See also: Bill Frisell Returns to East High School, Site of His First Jazz Guitar Performance

After a gorgeous rendition of the Beach Boys' "Surfer Girl" (the first record Frisell bought as a kid), Frisell said, "I'm thinking most of these songs are coming from when I was in junior high, not high school."

A few songs later, after the Tornadoes' "Telstar," fueled by Wolleson's tom work, and the jangly Byrds-like version of "Turn! Turn! Turn!," Frisell and company laid into Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' on Sunset," the first jazz guitar song Frisell in public for a talent show during his junior year at East in the fall of 1967. That song also changed the guitarist's life and opened to door for him to the world of jazz.

To see Frisell dig into Montgomery-style octaves during "Bumpin' on Sunset" in the same place where he first played it live four and a half decades ago was a bit otherworldly, like some weird time travel back to where it all essentially started for Frisell. While "Bumpin' on Sunset" might have gotten Frisell turned onto to jazz, the dozen songs he and his band played over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes also showed the diverse selection of music Frisell listened to as a kid, especially surf music. He closed out the first set with the Astronauts' "Baja" and ended the show on "Pipeline," made famous by the Chantays and the Ventures.

But Frisell and company were particularly energetic on the Junior Wells blues song "Messin' With the Kid," which Frisell first heard while hanging out at the Denver Folklore Center during his high school years. Frisell knows his way beautifully around ballads as well, he did with the folk song "Shenandoah," but then band turned into a brief improv freak out near the end of the tune. There was also a rendition of the R&B hit "Goin' Out of My Head," initially recorded by Little Anthony & the Imperials.

While Frisell is hailed as one of the world's finest jazz guitarists, it was clear from Wednesday night's show what a well-rounded player he is and how far his scope reaches.

SETLIST

Tired of Waiting for You Rebel Rouser Walk Don't Run Surfer Girl Telstar Turn! Turn! Turn! Bumpin' on Sunset Shenandoah - Good Dog, Happy Man Messin' With the Kid Baja

ENCORE Goin' Out of My Head Pipeline

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