All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

189

Michael Musillami: Beijing

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
As jazz musicians get older, they tend to get wiser. They also tend to lose a bit of spark, but there's nothing wrong about mellowing with age. (Usually their audience undergoes the very same transitions, which explains quite a bit about the music's demographics, but that's another matter...)

In over a decade on wax, Michael Musillami has undergone his share of changes, but nobody will accuse him of going soft. The guitarist has shifted his emphasis away from blazing technique and bop phrasing toward tone and angularity as tools for emotive expression. Less constrained by harmony or the groove, Musillami has entered a realm of abstraction which fuels the fire in an entirely different way.

Beijing unites Musillami with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, two familiar musicians who aptly straddle the gap between free improv and standard composition. Of the eleven tunes on the record, the shortest five represent fully improvised material and the rest are originals by Musillami, Mario Pavone, and/or Thomas Chapin (interestingly, all previously recorded). The reduced size of a trio offers greater freedom to step around the usual boundaries, an opportunity eagerly pursued by all three players.

Not to slight Schuller's contributions, but Joe Fonda is the catalyst that makes Beijing work. During improvisation, he intuitively nestles into open spaces. When "Swedish Fish" gradually drifts away from its bunchy, angular theme, the bassist takes liberties extending melodic lines, ducking between Musillami's thrusts to provide surprise counterpoint, and working the harmonic crannies the (vertically-minded) guitarist leaves. Maybe it's only a trend of two, but between Mario Pavone and Joe Fonda, Musillami has done his best work.

"Op-Ed" (originally from the record of the same name) draws upon Schuller's ability to understate swing. He provides a neural net through which Musillami fires off some of his fleeter shots, stopping and starting around bar lines, twisting along serpentine melodies. The "rhythm section" (such as it is) unites more as a common unit here than elsewhere, reinforcing structure so that the guitarist can run rampant through it.

The five sections of free improv on the record don't really draw much attention, since they tend to serve roles as connecting units for the rest, which lies far enough outside convention as it is. They're more color than anything else. But the record as a whole flows remarkably well; while the trio has its pensive moments, these players obviously prefer action. Just as well.

Visit Michael Musillami and Playscape Recordings on the web.


Track Listing: Jade Welcoming; Beijing; Dazu; Swedish Fish; Fragile Forms; Op-Ed; Mogao; Icons; Pivot; The Present; Caterpillar.

Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Joe Fonda: bass, kalimba; George Schuller: drums, bells, shaker, toy hammer, whistle.

Title: Beijing | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

The Treatment

The Treatment

Michael Musillami
The Treatment

Seven Blend

Seven Blend

Michael Musillami
Fragile Forms

Part Pitbull

Part Pitbull

Michael Musillami
Dachau

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Life Anthem

Life Anthem

Playscape Recordings
2018

buy
Of The Night

Of The Night

Playscape Recordings
2016

buy
Pride

Pride

Playscape Recordings
2015

buy
Pride

Pride

Playscape Recordings
2014

buy
Old Tea

Old Tea

Playscape Recordings
2010

buy
From Seeds

From Seeds

Playscape Recordings
2009

buy

Related Articles

Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Locked & Loaded CD/LP/Track Review
Locked & Loaded
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Long Story Short CD/LP/Track Review
Long Story Short
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Awase CD/LP/Track Review
Awase
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich CD/LP/Track Review
Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich
by John Sharpe
Published: May 26, 2018
Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read "Hide Ye Idols" CD/LP/Track Review Hide Ye Idols
by Troy Collins
Published: November 19, 2017
Read "Najwa" CD/LP/Track Review Najwa
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "Hunters & Scavengers" CD/LP/Track Review Hunters & Scavengers
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 23, 2018
Read "Kurrent" CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read "Happy Fire - New Kind of Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Happy Fire - New Kind of Jazz
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 16, 2018
Read "The Way Home" CD/LP/Track Review The Way Home
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 23, 2017