Wolfgang Muthspiel-Brian Blade: Friendly Travelers (2007)
I've been hearing guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel for over fifteen years now and have categorized him in a fusion-ish setting with a propensity to emulate the harder-edged style of John Scofield. So it came as a pleasant surprise to find that his co-venture with one of the most musical drummer/percussionists in jazz today, Brian Blade, is a most welcome event.
This duo first saw the light after being invited to perform at the 2006 Jazz Baltica Festival. Considering their diverse backgrounds, the meshing of this duo is ultimately a fine working musical environment with Blade having been the percussionist of choice for such artists as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. He hails from Shreveport, Louisiana and later of New Orleans, and has worked for years with his own Brian Blade Fellowship. Often, Blade's version of his music goes beyond categories and he brings special skills such as spirituality and sensitivity into his compositions and playing.
Muthspiel is an Austrian and bears influences from classical composers Messiaen, Glenn Gould and Bach as well as Renaissance, choral and Austrian folk music to Miles Davis, Prince and Bill Evans.
Both musicians are heard on their primary instruments as well as voice, with Blade also occasionally playing acoustic guitar. All of the compositions are originals with five of the eleven tracks being co-written by the two.
The title tune is named for a group of gospel singers that influenced Blade during his student days in New Orleans. Some of the highlights of the fortunate meeting on the album include the closing tracks, "Cold Summer" and "The Tuning of the Bells," that are both evocative pieces that summarize the results of this album.
"Youssou" was written by Muthspiel to honor the influence of African singer Youssou N'Dour. Another of his compositions, "Heavy Song," cites the influences of John Coltrane, and on the closest composition to a rock track, "Andrei Rubljou," Muthspiel utilizes guitar loop and a harder sound.
Track Listing: Gnadenwald; Between The Beats; End On 4; Vallekilde; Youssou; Friendly Travellers; Balladino; Heavy Song; Andrej Rublijow; Cold Summer; The Tuning Of The Bells.
Personnel: Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitars, voice; Brian Blade: drums, guitar, voice.