189

Michael Musillami: Beijing

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Musillami: Beijing 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.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

  • The Treatment
    The Treatment
    Michael Musillami Trio with Mark Feldman
    The Treatment
  • Seven Blend
    Seven Blend
    Michael Musillami's Dialect
    Fragile Forms
  • Part Pitbull
    Part Pitbull
    Michael Musillami Trio (with special guest Peter Madsen)
    Dachau
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Cedar Walton Cedar Walton
piano
Enrico Rava Enrico Rava
trumpet
Thomas Chapin Thomas Chapin
saxophone
Donny McCaslin Donny McCaslin
saxophone
Orrin Evans Orrin Evans
piano
Tim Berne Tim Berne
saxophone
Brad Shepik Brad Shepik
guitar
Mike Moreno Mike Moreno
guitar
Marc Copland Marc Copland
piano
Julian Lage Julian Lage
guitar

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Journey To The Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Journey To The Heart
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "Kjølvatn" CD/LP/Track Review Kjølvatn
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2016
Read "Flow" CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "Collective Effervescence" CD/LP/Track Review Collective Effervescence
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 24, 2016
Read "River Silver" CD/LP/Track Review River Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 23, 2016
Read "Wede Harer Guzo" CD/LP/Track Review Wede Harer Guzo
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: May 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!