Wolfgang Muthspiel: Angular Blues

Mark Sullivan By

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Austrian jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel's previous two ECM albums have been quintets: Where The River Goes (ECM, 2018) and Rising Grace (ECM, 2016). This trio date is a call back to his ECM leader debut, Driftwood (ECM, 2014), with Brian Blade returning on drums but Scott Colley replacing Larry Grenadier on double bass. The music is mostly Muthspiel originals, but this time the program also includes two standards.

Muthspiel opens the set on classical guitar, which he stays on for the first three tracks. "Wondering" begins with a double bass showcase for Colley, who plays the theme, followed by a guitar solo. The whole piece is a beautiful acoustic statement, strong enough to set the tone for the whole album. The title tune immediately recalls Thelonious Monk, but Muthspiel also acknowledges Chick Corea as an influence. It suggests classical/jazz guitarist Ralph Towner (another ECM mainstay) as well. Blade brings the performance home with an energetic drum solo. "Hüttengriffe" has a haunting melody, and ably demonstrates the rhythm section's support for the acoustic guitar.

The electric guitar part of the set is varied. But high points certainly include "Ride," a fast bebop tune with the whole band in synch. The two "Kanon" pieces both feature Muthspiel with digital delay, creating the canon effects of the title. "Kanon in 6/8" initially employs a single delay, with the trio filling in—as well as a bit of over-driven guitar. "Solo Kanon in 5/4" also uses delay, but here Muthspiel actively interacts with it to create a polyphonic texture all by himself.

The Cole Porter standard "Everything I Love" shows the trio in fully interactive mode. The set concludes with the standard "I'll Remember April" (recorded by many artists, but Muthspiel credits the Frank Sinatra performance as his inspiration). Taken at a faster tempo, Colley's double bass ostinato anchors this version, with Muthspiel interpreting the melody freely to suit the guitar and the arrangement. While there are solo passages, the trio interaction is the real star. These are his first recordings of standards for ECM. This trio has the perfect combination of freedom and lyricism for the task.

The acoustic and electric selections are equally satisfying; one could easily imagine an entire trio album with classical guitar. But whatever Muthspiel does next will be worth waiting for.

Track Listing

Wondering; Angular Blues; Hüttengriffe; Camino; Ride; Everything I Love; Kanon in 6/8; Solo Kanon in 5/4; I'll Remember April.


Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitar; Scott Colley: bass, acoustic; Brian Blade: drums.

Album information

Title: Angular Blues | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: ECM Records


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