One of the significant moments for the Michael Musillami Trio came when the group played in Dachau, Germany in November, 2004. At that time, says Musillami, they were "elevated to a new level. That plateau is still evident on this recording, made possible by several factors, including shared empathy and each player's strength as a musician.
The writing on Dachau moves from swing to free elements and builds a strong emotional scale within those parameters. A pronounced joy is countenanced by sadness, tumult is balanced by the sedate, and an inherent power gives the music strength of character. These players are not averse to picking up the thread and weaving it in their own image.
Musillami also brings in Tom Christensen (tenor saxophone), Peter Madsen (piano), and Dave Ballou (trumpet) to add color and impetus and to define different aspects of the music. The title track, which features all six musicians, starts off introspectively as Musillami plays a quiet stream of notes with bassist Joe Fonda, but then the music gradually gathers momentum and becomes volatile when Christensen and Ballou drop in. The two head out front and engage in heated deliberation while Fonda churns the base. Then comes a ray of sunshine as Musillami feeds in melody, the trio now in charge of the path ahead. Madsen leads them into hardier terrain, forging on with a storm of ideas before he ignites Ballou, who keeps the pulse molten.
"Metaphor 3.4.5 is lighter in its manifestation, but it showcases the trio as a tight-knit band: Fonda loosens up the notes and sings along; George Schuller keeps the beat light, flexible, and swinging; and Musillami plays a nice melody, embellishing it with trills, in an articulate dip into mainstream jazz.
A winner in every way.
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Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums, bells, shaker, toy
hammer whistle; Peter Madsen: piano; Tom Christensen: tenor sax; Dave Ballou: trumpet.