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Michael Musillami: Playscape Recordings Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

By Published: October 27, 2004
AAJ: Another distinguishing of aspect of Playscape is the way the roster of musicians contributes to the various albums. Each of the core group leaders writes their own music, but you are also frequently on each other's albums. But when each leader is doing their thing, you get very different results. As players, they all seem very adept at bringing the leader's music to life without imposing their own signature.

MM: Being a creative musician, there's no preconception. [At Playscape] it's not like when you're playing a date and you say, "Well, I'm playing with so-and-so and I'm going to be this guy tonight." You really do what you do, and because everything is in motion—who's on bass, who's on drums—you're going to react in a certain way. So maybe to a listener it comes out as "wow that's different," but as a player, I don't think it starts out that way.

AAJ: You don't think it's the force of the compositions?

MM: It very well could be the shape of the compositions. I guess what I'm saying is that the end is not preconceived beforehand. It just happens to be the way it is. And that's really all that can be asked. The cats do what they do, and what comes out is the way it is supposed to be. Which I think is great. I'm glad you are saying this.

AAJ: I don't want to skip your new album, Spirits. You went with an octet and some different instrumentation.

MM: It was octet, but actually in its conception it was supposed to be much, much larger. The concept just kept getting larger. I had this body of music—I probably drove everyone nuts around me over the past couple of years prior to making this happen because I had been talking about it for a long, long time.

Thomas Chapin wrote this body of work which is very different than what he did in his trio. I tr[y] to avoid calling it Brazilian music, but that's really where these compositions come from. And I had played some of the music with Thomas. I kept thinking, there are some beautiful, beautiful charts. With the time, and the effort, and the right musicians, and a big enough pallet—I wanted a large pallet for this— it could be great. So what we ended up with is this octet with some of the cats playing more than one instrument.

AAJ: You have English horn, the Didgeridoo' is that the next challenge for you, to compose with a broader pallet?

MM: Sometimes. I work most often with the trio, you have the Beijing release, but what I'm saying is that with the octet, the music could support a lot of instruments because it was so deep. The harmonies and the melodies were so strong, I could just hear it.

AAJ: Before we close, I want to ask you about something else a little more general. As a business man and a player, what do you think the future shape of jazz will be?

MM: I can't speak for all the different players. On this issue there are again a lot of layers. There's the recording issue. Players want to put their work out. It's a natural thing. Whether you are a writer or a painter, you want to produce. You want to have product—I don't want to call it product, that's not the right word—you want to have your work, what you do. If you're a composer, you compose, and if you're composing music, you want to hear it. So that is one layer. How can I get my pieces out? And then there is the performance front, which can be, really, completely separate. And then there is the issue of, how do I live? Is this going to support me. And you are constantly balancing these things.

But I'll say this, man, in my time as a player all these musicians are survivors. It's like a pinball, you hit that thing and bounce off somewhere else—except that the way play you have a little bit of choice. Jazz musicians will always be players, and whether you are working at a nursery for a summer because you are busted, you are still a player. I don't know where the future of jazz music is, all I know is this: guys are gonna continue to play, and that is all you can ask.

Visit Michael Musillami and Playscape Recordings on the web.

Related Articles
Playscape CD Review Archive @ AAJ
Playscape Recordings (2003)

Photo Credit
Jos L. Knaepen

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