Home » Jazz Articles » Guitar Reviews: Michael Musillami, Tomas Janzon and Rafael Rosa


Multiple Reviews

Guitar Reviews: Michael Musillami, Tomas Janzon and Rafael Rosa


Sign in to view read count
Here are some interesting recent releases that all feature guitarists, either as bandleaders or sidemen.

Michael Musillami Trio
Block Party

Michael Musillami's trio with Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller on drums has been around since 2003. In that time they have released ten albums, most of which include additional musicians. This is only their fourth true trio recording and it shows how tight their musical communication has become over the years. Musillami's heavy riffing and Fonda's deep bass sound establish a seamless bond as they travel over the bumpy surfaces of pieces like "Robert Paris" and "Off The Monster." All the while Schuller is there, kicking the beat along in sharp, punchy strokes. "Little Ruby Steps" shows the group's ability in a quieter mode with circular guitar notes darting over nimble bass plucks and classy brush work. Musillami's sound is distinctive throughout. One minute he is playing fat, swooping chords like Larry Coryell and the next, he gobbles notes like Joe Morris. No matter what he does, Fonda and Schuller stay with him move for move. This has really become a formidable trio.

Tomas Janzon
Changes Music

Guitarist Tomas Janzon works in two settings here. One is a trio recorded in Pasadena, California and the other is a New York quartet that includes vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Janzon plays with a flexible and liquid approach in both venues. In the quartet tracks, he sounds especially nice dancing with Nelson's vibes on the Latin- inflected "Out Door Valley." He also excels on a frisky medley of "Subconscious-Lee" and "Hot House" where the bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Chuck McPherson keep things hopping. "Letter From JSB" is a thoughtful change of mood, a haunting duet between Janzon on acoustic guitar and Nelson inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach.

On the trio sides, Janzon establishes a good rapport with his partners, bassist Jeff Littleton and drummer Tony Austin as they glide easily through Sonny Rollins' "Valse Hot" and the slinky low-string groove of "Blue Frog Return." They also come up with a lovely relaxed version of McCoy Tyner's "Search For Peace."

Rafael Rosa

This 12-inch EP by guitarist Rafael Rosa spends most of its time traveling in jazz-fusion, prog-rock territory. On the title track, Rosa's guitar buzzes like Robert Fripp's alongside a dense stew of jangling electric piano, squealing saxophone, and rumbling electric bass. "Obliquity" has a lighter touch as Edmar Colon 's tenor saxophone takes the lead, sailing melodically over Rosa and keyboard player Carlos Homs. "The Hand That Draws Another Hand," done with a slightly different band, is more in the prog-rock vein, a grandiose piano-led setting where Rosa's steely guitar and Alejandro Aviles' tenor cut a sharp swath through the murky atmosphere. The final track, "Libelula" is a complete change of pace where Leo Genovese plays a dreamlike and soulful two-minute electric piano solo.

Erik Friedlander
She Sees
Skipstone Records

Cellist Erik Friedlander is the leader of this quartet but its most potent weapon is guitarist Ava Mendoza who does a lot to shape the music through a barrage of hard rock riffs and chords spun out both in support of the leader's furious bowing and her own solo turns. She unleashes twisty solo lines on "Baskets, Biscuits, Rain" and chops funky rhythm accompaniment to Friedlander's dancing lead on "Blink." She also adds muscle to the pizzicato tango rhythms of "Ache, Air," puts some electric twang into the bluesy lope of "Sliding" and even slyly drops the Pink Floyd "Money" riff into the waltzing swirl of "Moneycake: Corrupting." Mendoza and Friedlander make an inspired team and bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Diego Espinosa give them excellent rhythm support.

Jason Kao Hwang Critical Response
Book Of Stories
True Sound

Violinist Jason Kao Hwang goes into power trio formation here alongside guitarist Anders Nilsson and drummer Michael T.A. Thompson. The resulting music is intense but also makes good use of tempo and volume dynamics. "The Power of Many in the Soul of One" has periods of quiet rumblings amidst aggressive guitar and violin slashing that invariably suggests the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Meanwhile "Dragon Carved Into Bone" is a maddened clash of distorted violin and spitting guitar sounds bouncing against each other as Thompson does a superb job of adjusting to his partners' gestures and keeping a consistent rhythm going. "A Silent Ghost Follows" is a striking bit of quiet amidst this turmoil with cymbal washes, stretched-out guitar sounds, and slow violin bowing all creating a resonant moment of spectral calm.

Tracks and Personnel

Block Party

Tracks: Robert Paris; Block Party; Little Ruby Steps; Freedom Calls; Off The Monster (Intro); Off The Monster; Slow Moe; After Twenty.

Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums.


Tracks: Out Door Valley: Rob's Piano; Night Watch; Letter From JSB; Search For Peace; Valse Hot; Subconscious-Lee / Hot House; Ascending; Uncovering; Blue Frog Return; Pressing Forward.

Personnel: Tomas Janzon: guitar; Steve Nelson: vibraphone (1-4, 7, 9); Hilliard Greene: bass (1-3, 7,9); Jeff Littleton: bass (5,6,8,10,11); Chuck McPherson: drums (1-3, 7, 9); Tony Austin: drums (5,6,8,10,11).


Tracks: Axiomatic -Music For The People; Obliquity; The Hand That Draws Another Hand; Libelula (Song For An Angel I Never Met).

Personnel: Rafael Rosa: guitar, FX; John Benitez (1,2), Francesco Marcocci (3), bass; Joel Mateo: drums; Edmar Colon (1,2), Alejandro Aviles (3), sax; Carlos Homs (1,2), Leo Genovese (3,4): piano, keyboards.

She Sees

Tracks: Baskets, Biscuits, Rain; Wit And Whimsy; Heatwave; Blink; Summit; Ache, Air; Sliding; Rush, Rush Slowly; Soak! Soak!; Moneycake: Corrupting.

Personnel: Erik Friedlander: cello; Ava Mendoza: guitar; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Diego Espinosa: drums, percussion.

Book Of Stories

Tracks: The Power of Many in the Soul of One; Upside Circle Down; a silent ghost follows; Dragon Carved into Bone; Friends Forever.

Personnel: Jason Kao Hwang: composer, electric violin; Anders Nilsson: guitar; Michael T. A. Thompson: drums.

Post a comment

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.



Borrowed Roses
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Where Are We
Joshua Redman
Polarity 2
Ivo Perelman / Nate Wooley


Double Portrait
Giuseppe Millaci and the Vogue Trio
Afro Futuristic Dreams
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids
Pharoah (Box Set)
Pharoah Sanders
Dynamic Maximum Tension
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

On the record

Vibes on a Breath
Ted Piltzecker
Jonathan Karrant
Brazilian Match
Luiz Millan
Double Portrait
Giuseppe Millaci and the Vogue Trio

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.