The Muffins: Bandwidth (2002)
Not only does this superb release represent the band’s first studio production in over two decades, “The Muffins” have gotten back into the biz in a huge and noticeably prominent way! Emanating from the Washington D.C. area, “The Muffins’” adroitly absorbed the finer attributes of the oft-fabled British Canterbury scene along with elements of modern/free form jazz during its tenure back in the 70s. In fact, the great improvising guitarist/composer Fred Frith once stated “The Muffins” were “the finest progressive band America produced.” Significant words indeed from a man who along with a few others turned quite a few eyes and ears with the legendary 70’s outfit known as “Henry Cow.” Much to our chagrin “The Muffins” called it a day via its dissolution in 1981, whereas “Cuneiform Records” subsequently reissued the group’s material on CD format.
This presentation leans towards a jazzy approach amid a discreetly perpetuated Canterbury scene style muse. Nevertheless, the quartet along with guest appearances by several D.C. area instrumentalists, rely less on avant-garde or unconventional strategies by pursuing affectionately melodic tunes. On “World Maps” for example, saxophonists Thomas Frasier Scott, Dave Newhouse (also performing on keys) and guest artist, trombonist Doug Elliot intertwine poignant choruses with a haunting melody. The musicians subsequently launch a framework consisting of succinct unison lines framed upon the primary theme that weaves in and out of the grand scheme of things. Scott’s memorably tuneful soprano sax work on “Dear Mona,” is augmented with a touch of echo, as the artists underscore a contemporary vibe with 1970’s type progressive rock. These characteristics can also be found on the whimsically affecting piece titled “People In The Snow.”
The prevailing factor of delight resides within their harmoniously constructed compositions and alluring arrangements marked by fluid backbeats, textural patterns, and airy voicings. A trace of urgency encircles the proceedings, thanks to the soloists’ briefly devised yet complexly woven time signatures. You can hum along with the soothing motif witnessed on “East Of Diamond!” Here, the quartet moves forward with a sequence of flourishing passages, underscored by Newhouse’ acoustic piano and Hammond B-3 organ treatments.
With this effort, analogies of a cloistered writer composing his or her ensuing masterpiece might ring loud and clear: especially when we consider the twenty-year gap between studio productions. Feverishly recommended.
Track Listing: 1.Walking the Duck 2.World Maps 3.Down From the Sun Tower 4.Impossible John 5.Military Road 6.Dear Mona 7.People in the Snow 8.Essay R 9.Out of the Boot 10.East of Diamond 11.Sam
Personnel: Thomas Frasier Scott: alto & soprano sax, flute, clarinet