Michael Musillami Trio + 3: From Seeds (2009)
Following guitarist's Michael Musillami's The Treatment (Playscape, 2007), in which his trio featuring bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller worked with violinist Mark Feldman, From Seeds weds his trio with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and vibraphonist, Matt Moran.
The definition between Musillami's core trio and the other trifecta is both magnified and stressed in all six of Musillami's compositions. The music is a complete interwoven strand, strengthened with instrumental lines that come together in unison, separate into uniqueness, or increase their momentum and volume and eventually come to rest. Because the variety of sounds and tempos keep the music bustling, the travel routes of the lines are pervasive and not entangled. Each instrument's sound is clearly audible and never vanishes into muddiness. The solos and duos from the players rise often and do nothing but delight the ears.
Moran, Musillami and Fonda constantly intertwine as the horns play on or over the surfaces that the strings and vibes construct. ("Ga Ga Goosebumps," "Graphite"). In most of the record, Moran brilliantly applies the vibes towards expanding the guitar resonance or bridging the gap from tonalities emanating from the bass and guitar to those from the horns ("Bill Barron," "Wisteria Hysteria Blues"). The vibes become a transitioning vehicle as well, when Moran bows one of the bars, creating a tone that is so distinct that there is no missing it ("Ga Ga Goosebumps," "Graphite"). Fonda's weighty and well-timed pizzicato and infrequent bowing anchors the surrounding sound throughout ("Splayed Fingers," "Ga Ga Goosebumps"). When he solos in "Bill Barron," his fingers dance away with character.
Ehrlich distinguishes himself from the crowd, singing in arpeggios (sometimes in a minor key) and deconstructing melodies with aplomb ("Splayed Fingers," "Ga Ga Goosebumps"). Alessi, too, perches himself up front with vibratos ("From Seeds") or beautifully phrased melodies and rapid scalar runs which can move to high peaking pitches that just hang there ("Splayed Fingers," "Graphite," "Wisteria Hysteria Blues"). The drums seem to be joined with the horns in their timbre, sharp or soft snare and cymbal combinations prevailing. The drums open up though in "Wisteria Hysteria Blues" and, along with the bass, plow the pulse through.
The guitar itself is the spine around which the music is built, whether Musillami goes in a solo direction ("Ga Ga Goosebumps," "Bill Barron," "Wisteria Hysteria Blues") or blends within the stream, remaining silent or carefully integrating his playing into the group. Mid-album, Musillami goes into a rock zone in the title tune activating the band with two-fold intentionperhaps not only to reveal a penchant, but also to complement the essential tunefulness of the entire set. Musillami's abilities on his electric guitar are without parallel. And there is no question that he feels every note that every instrument makes.
From Seeds is a continual show of fireworks. Musillami has designed the overlaying and sequencing of musical color bursts into arrays of endlessly popping grand finales.
Track Listing: Splayed Finger; Ga Ga Goosebumps; From Seeds; Wisteria Hysteria Blues; Graphite; Bill Barron.
Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Marty Ehrlich: alto sax; Matt Moran: vibraphone; Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums.