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Wolfgang Muthspiel and Brian Blade: Friendly Travelers

Mark F. Turner By

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A confluence of two creative minds merges into an inspiring work on Friendly Travelers. From Austria comes guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, who has garnered international praise in both classical and jazz music including his critically acclaimed Bright Side (2006 Material Records.) Joining him is Brian Blade, who is among jazz's top drummers: leader of Brian Blade Fellowship, member of the recent Wayne Shorter Quartet, and diverse credits with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and many others. The two have performed together in the past but now offer something new and exciting on this duo collaboration.

What appears as a simple drum/guitar duo is transformed into a listening experience that is enhanced by the musicians' skill and connectivity. Muthspiel enhances his quick and nimble playing with live sampling, loops, and a variety of guitar textures: acoustic, electric, and even synthesized-bass. Blade colors the music with his signature kit traps flowing with and against the music; perfectly timed, spoken with intricate solos and accents.

These improvised dialogues are girded with melody and harmony. The first piece has an expansive and bucolic feel with Pat Metheny-like chord changes and voice. It's clear that this is unique as Muthspiel weaves in the bass pattern and his solo takes flight with a clean then distortion tone as Blade provides the rhythmic drive. The free groove "End of 4 swings, digs in, and then morphs into a free-for-all where both artists cut loose. "Youssou is another favorite where the guitar is looped and the duo provides the spirit of dance inspired by Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour.

There are poignant tunes like the title track (featuring Blade playing acoustic guitar) and ones that rock-hard like "Andrej Rubljow with its aptly placed guitar loop. Each lands on opposite ends of the spectrum but is equally memorable. The recording closes with "Cold Summer and "The Tuning of the Bells, stirring pieces of exploration, ingenuity, and a common bond between two prime musicians.

Track Listing: Gnadenwald; Between The Beats; End On 4; Vallekilde; Youssou; Friendly Travellers; Balladino; Heavy Song; Andrej Rublijow; Cold Summer; The Tuning Of The Bells.

Personnel: Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitars, voice; Brian Blade: drums, guitar, voice.

Title: Friendly Travelers | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Material Records

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