Mercurial guitarist Bill Frisell has been popping up all over the place lately, but not often with Beautiful Dreamers, which plays the Bellevue Jazz Festival Saturday, May 31. If you’ve never heard this minimalist chamber trio — with Seattle’s Eyvind Kang, viola, and Rudy Royston, drums — do so. These three guys get more big, unusual — and playful — sounds out of three instruments than anyone since guitarist Jim Hall teamed up with clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer in the late ’50s.
The comparison is not accidental. As in the earlier outfit, the trio members alternate rhythm, harmony and melody duties, interacting in surprising ways — and in an array of genres. One minute Frisell and Kang share a lickety-split unison on the vintage swing riff “Bugle Boy,” the next, Kang dives under Frisell’s melody on Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” (the trio’s namesake) with dark scales that sound “wrong” till you realize he’s prefiguring the next chord, which Frisell handily resolves. On the classic pop ballad by Little Anthony and the Imperials, “Goin’ Out of My Head” the trio weaves an orchestral tapestry that makes it seem impossible this is only a trio.
Beautiful Dreamers is just one attraction on the Bellevue fest, which is capitalizing on the good crowds it has drawn with Latin jazz in the past. Once again, trumpeters Ray Vega and Seattleite Thomas Marriott team up for the East-West Trumpet Summit (Wednesday, May, 28); Marriott also does duty in Seattle’s Afro-Latin band Carlos Cascante Y Su Tumbao (Thursday, May 29); followed by the great California conguero Poncho Sanchez (Friday, May 30). Beautiful Dreamers is the last headliner (Saturday, May 31).
The weekday headliners play at Bake’s Place, 155 108th Ave. N.E., Bellevue (425-454-2776 or bakesplacebellevue.com); the weekenders at the Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, 11100 N.E. Sixth St., Bellevue (425-637-1020 or meydenbauer.com).
The festival also showcases a wealth of regional talent (Overton Berry, Richard Cole, Greta Matassa, others) as well as a sampling of the many fine student jazz bands in the area (Cascade, Newport, Bellevue, others) in other venues around town.
Tickets range from free-$35 (800- 838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com).