All We Are Saying
Produced by Lee Townsend
Released September 27, 2011 by Savoy Jazz
* Tribute to the music of John Lennon
1. Across the Universe
3. Nowhere Man
5. Please Please Me
6. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
7. Hold On
8. In My Life
9. Come Together
12. # 9 Dream
14. Beautiful Boy
16. Give Peace a Chance
* BONUS SONGS:
"...this is a glorious hymn to the art of playing together, of which Lennon would surely approve." - The Independent / by Nick Coleman
"All We Are Saying... may be Frisell's closest thing to a rock record but, informed by years of improvisational experimentation‹melodically, harmonically and texturally‹it's an album that simply couldn't have been made by anyone else." - All About Jazz / by John Kelman
Eclectic, uncategorizable guitarist Bill Frisell takes his John Lennon seriously on "All We Are Saying," on which he makes no apologies for his love of Lennon and the Beatles. This is not a collection of wry covers. This is a record by a man who can unearth all sorts of nuggets in a familiar tune¹s nooks and crannies. Frisell¹s band, too, is made up of musicians who love to hang out in the place where rock, pop, folk, blues, and jazz intersect: violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Tony Scherr, drummer Kenny Wollesen, and second guitarist Greg Leisz. So what do we have here? Sixteen radio-length tracks that include a gorgeous, ethereal version of "Across the Universe" whose somber violin and country twang could bring on tears; a honky-tonk take of "Revolution" that makes you want to square-dance; a sleepy, dreamy redo of "Imagine" in which Frisell takes considerable care to pick just the right notes not only when he plays the melody but when he improvises; a folk cover of "Julia" that contains not an ounce of cynicism; and an almost ambient sketch of "Give Peace a Chance" that dares the listener to find the original melody buried deep within.
- September 13, 2011 | By Steve Greenlee, Boston Globe Staff
All songs by John Lennon except: Across the Universe, Revolution, Nowhere Man, Please Please Me, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, Come Together and Julia - written by Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Mr. Frisell's album represents a labor of love .... an unmistakable sound, an identifiable style .... a great deal of sensitivity and artful restraint .... this music makes up a substantial part of his DNA.... The album's superior stretch takes up what would be Side B of the LP with a beautifully lilting "Julia" and a starkly tender "Woman" ... Some of the band's most soulful playing comes on "Beautiful Boy" ... And things get powerfully ethereal on the closing track, "Give Peace a Chance," which gave the album its title phrase and, one suspects, its implicit agenda. - Nate Chinen, New York Times
Frisell really gets John Lennon ‹ the heartbreaking tenderness and pain of the family songs, Lennon's universalist stretch, the yearning for a better world, and the tough, angry rocker who snarled "Revolution" and funkily demanded everyone "Come Together". Frisell and band render their material not through jazz improv but with warm and loosely intertwining string textures that swarm and tumble, moving deftly through jangly joy, inky fear and slowcore declamation. What a legacy Lennon left us. How lucky we are to have Frisell to tell us about it. - Paul DeBarros, Seattle Times
Bill Frisell, All We Are Saying — (Savoy): Trust Frisell, whose slip-slidin’ approach makes him the most identifiable electric guitarist — equal parts blues, Nashville and mysterioso — of the last 25 years, to create this stunningly original and sensitive tribute to the songs of John Lennon. Eschewing pure jazz improvisation for takeoffs on melody, Frisell covers 16 Lennon classics, both from his Beatles days and his solo career, from Please, Please Me, Nowhere Man and Revolution to Imagine, Woman and Give Peace a Chance. This is obviously a heartfelt endeavour, a homage to the man and group who inspired him to get into music in a big way in 1964, after getting his feet wet on the Ventures. - Vancouver Sun/Juan Rodriguez
The guitarist Bill Frisell applies his golden-hued, rustic-cosmopolitan vision to the songs of John Lennon on “All We Are Saying,” his latest postcard from an elusive, idealized America. His band — Jenny Scheinman on violin, Greg Leisz on guitars, Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums — brings as much sensitivity to the anthems as the love songs, and no less twang. - Nate Chinen/NY Times
Downbeat - Editors Picks - October, 2011 - All We Are Saying is a proverbial rooftop performance; it’s an intelligent, no-frills presentation of the Lennon catalog, spiked with free-flowing Frisell Americana. The guitarist and company tour pivotal creative landmarks in Lennon’s career, from ragtag materialization of the early Beatles (a true-to-sound “Please Please Me”) to the tumultuous months preceding the band’s fallout. The liquid pace of Frisell’s sweeping delay pushes the disc onward, with texture added by Scheinman’s searing harmonics and Leisz’ dizzying, counter-melodic lap steel. Frisell ventures further from the straight-ahead as he approaches Lennon’s solo years (“Number 9 Dreams” and “Woman”). With a couple of exceptions—“Revolution” breathes crunchy electrified blues, and “Come Together” seethes with brusque Scheinman cuts and muddied garage undertones—this album is fluid and unassuming. For Frisell, it’s a lithe musical dream sequence, offering plenty of experimental space without straying too far. - by Hilary Brown/Downbeat
This enchanting album radiates a feeling of inevitability, so familiar are the songs and so clear is the kinship between the electronically inspired Bill Frisell and John Lennon, with his love of tremolo and reverb, and the two musicians’ peculiar affinity for utopian innocence and inky fear. Choosing material from Beatles and post-Beatles periods, Frisell shows uncanny empathy for the yearning of the family songs as well as the cosmic ones. The many-splendored strings of the ensemble - pedal steel, violin, acoustic and electric guitar, bass—tumble and flow as if only breathing, rather than paying close attention to nuance, which they certainly are. In places, the players seem to be having more fun grooving than making sure something fascinating is happening, but those moments are short. Overall, this is lovely stuff. Though there is little jazz improvisation, the real improv here is in the subtly shifting timbre of the ensemble. Frisell is content to simply play the cushiony, sighing melody of “Imagine,” with Jenny Scheinman’s violin playing in a cello-ish range. The band captures the joyous clang of early Fab Four on “Please, Please Me,” a jangling joy that resurfaces on “Nowhere Man.” The group goes baroque for a moment on “In My Life” and gleefully polyphonic on “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” “Come Together,” with throbbing bass and distorted guitar, captures Lennon’s neurotic energy to a tee, as does the dark dirge “Mother.” The other mother song, “Julia,” feels both wounded and warm. Frisell and Scheinman duet starkly on “Love.” But when Frisell and pedal steel man Greg Leisz cascade down the payoff line of “Beautiful Boy,” you feel how sympathetic Frisell is with Lennon’s sense of the world. —Paul de Barros/Downbeat
What luxury to be awash in so many Frisell recordings, especially as he's tapped such rich musical veins of late. In contrast to the complex intimacies of his recent 858 Quartet release, All We Are Saying is a love song to one of Frisell's all time heroes, John Lennon. The quintet play the songs with little adornment, allowing those unforgettable tunes to ring through. There's an elegiac 'Beautiful Boy', a swoonful 'Julia' but the album is no exercise in nostalgia. For Frisell, Lennon is a living artist, his ambiguities and soul searching, let alone ethical struggles partly reflected in the guitarist's own constant questing. So 'Revolution' crackles and sparks, 'Come Together' is decidedly eerie and the darkness of 'Mother' isn't avoided. But it's the early extraordinary songs, 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' and a tear jerking 'In My Life' that stay with you long after the CDs slid back into the sleeve. - Andy Robson - November 2011/Jazzwise
It goes without saying that Bill Frisell—one of the most imaginative and versatile jazz guitarists of the past three decades— would not approach an album of John Lennon interpretations in the same way that anyone else would. Frisell is—besides being a virtuoso on his instrument—a tireless seeker of sonic innovations, and here, on tracks ranging from the earliest beatles hits (“Please Please me”) through later group tunes (“come Together”) and solo Lennon (“#9 dream,” “Woman”), Frisell mixes it up thoroughly, making these familiar songs fresh again (and largely avoiding standard jazz arrangements). credit goes to his accompanists, particularly violinist Jenny Scheinman and fellow guitarist Greg Leisz, who add piles of dimension. Frisell reveals the soul of songs like “In my Life” and “beautiful boy” throughout the two-disc set. - Jeff Tamarkin - December 2011/Relix
Beatles and or John Lennon covers can be horrifying to behold. From the band who plays a song note for note with all the imagination of an accountant, to the performer who absolutely wrecks a classic by making it sound kitschy, the world is littered with songs that have been given something less than the royal treatment. But when placed in the hands of legendary maverick guitarist Bill Frisell, an album full of such John Lennon songs is engaging because the tracks become lyric-less re-imaginings rather than bland retreads or ridiculous send-ups.
Frisell is his usual spacey self with his guitar work, letting the chords linger in dreamy, somewhat off-kilter ways. It takes a minute for you to realize you’re listening to “Imagine” for instance, but the track’s iconic piano notes eventually come to life on Frisell’s guitar. And while Frisell wisely steers clear of more upbeat and raucous Lennon classics, he and his band (filled out by the admirable playing of steel guitarist Greg Leisz, violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen) give a good showing on the bluesy, distortion-heavy “Revolution” and their cool-as-ice version of “Come Together.” The Americana undertones that have laced themselves throughout Frisell’s work for the last decade or so also pop up throughout the record, giving tracks like “Across the Universe” a new feel to them.
Frisell has made a career out of thinking outside the box with respect to the music that he makes, and All We Are Saying… is no exception. It might seem like sacrilege for someone to do this, but if you’re familiar with Frisell’s musical bent then you’ll likely appreciate where this record ends up going. Covering Lennon tunes isn’t a wise idea for most artists, but Frisell and Co. make this an experience worth having. – Brian Palmer / Glide Magazine
A lesser talent might have been too careful. Instead, the thing that made this album feel so connective was Frisell’s willingness to simply let things happen — to internalize these songs, each of them talismanic John Lennon classics, and then build off of them. That kept All We Are Saying from becoming trapped in its own history. There are times, in fact, when the underlying melodies, so familiar as to become rote, don’t bubble up until the song is well underway. While Frisell clearly bonds with the core emotions that each track initially held, he’s not afraid to move beyond the obvious template. The result is a collection of familiar tunes that nevertheless boasts this thrumming, ageless vibrancy. - Nick Deri so, Something Else