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Michael Musillami Octet: Spirits (2005)

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Michael Musillami Octet: Spirits How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The Michael Musillami Octet shines throughout this tribute to the late multi-instrumentalist and composer Thomas Chapin. The talented ensemble—Musillami on guitar, Peter Madsen on piano, Cameron Brown on bass, Tom Christensen on saxophones and flutes, Art Baron on trombone and didgeridoo, Tom Beckham on vibes and marimba, Satoshi Takeishi on percussion, and Michael Sarin on drums—brings seven Chapin compositions to life with verve and good taste. Inspired in part by Brazilian composers/musicians Pixinguinha and Hermeto Pasqual, Chapin's songs are a delight: the tunes are fresh and graceful, infused with a sweet enthusiasm. The octet creates a spacious, multi-layered sound that's always appealing and never overcrowded.

The tour de force is the fifteen-minute "Spirits Rebellious," arranged by Ellington alum Art Baron. The song starts off slow and shimmery, with formidable front line work by Baron and Christensen as the rhythm section cooks steadily. Musillami then breaks into an extended Hendrix-like solo, punctuated by a panoply of mysterious sounds, cries and whooshes, and subliminal vocalizations from the rich array of instruments. After piano and drum solos, the spirits have been soothed and the melody returns, but with hints of future rebellions to come. Also excellent is "Namibian Sunset," a warm, uplifting song with an unabashedly pretty melody, as well as "Squid Fantasy," which features an assertive horn line and rich layers of percussion.

For an eight-piece band composed of powerful, first-rate musicians, the octet manages to play quite gently, bringing the beauty of Chapin's songs to full flower.

Track Listing: 1. Squid Fantasy 2. Star 3. Nambian Sunset 4. Goody 5. Spirits Rebellious 6. Circles 7. The Walking Wounded

Personnel: Michael Musillami- guitar, altered guitar; Peter Madsen- piano; Cameron Brown- bass; Tom Christensen- tenor sax, alto sax, alto flute, english horn, wood flute; Art Baron- trombone, bass recorder, didgeridoo; Tom Beckham- vibes, marimba; Satoshi Takeishi- percussion; Michael Sarin- drums;

Record Label: Playscape Recordings

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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