All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

4

Michael Musillami Trio + 2: Life Anthem

Jerome Wilson By

Sign in to view read count
One day in June 2016, guitarist Michael Musillami woke up with a massive headache. Tests soon revealed that he had a brain hemorrhage and also an unrelated brain tumour. He slowly recovered from his illnesses and is now in good health. Life Anthem is his musical testament to his ordeal, realized in this recording by his long-standing trio with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller plus guests Kirk Knuffke and Scott Robinson.

The music, structured as a suite that follows the progression of Musillami's treatment and recovery, assumes different forms. Sometimes, as on "Sirens," it goes on a wobbly, careening path with all five players rolling and pitching separately. On other tracks, like "MRI Countdown," the group plays tight unison heads together before breaking into solos and duets. Whatever the setting, Musillami's guitar is a focal point. He picks out tight, clipped notes, in the manner of Jim Hall, with no electronic effects or delays, a style that lends itself equally well to roller-coaster runs of notes and solid rhythm playing.

"ICU Blues" has Musillami running over a lazy 4/4 shuffle groove that slowly slips out of sync before Robinson's saxophone and Knuffke's cornet howl over Fonda's throbbing bass. "Dr. Mohamad Khaled," named for Musillami's surgeon, is a stomp laid over a busy drum pattern that gives Robinson room to bellow on tenor while Knuffke blows hard-bop flurries and Musillami twists and burrows. On "June Recovery" the core trio stirs up a slick tango rhythm before the horns enter and Knuffke solos with a smeary melodicism reminiscent of Don Cherry. The hushed "Nurse Roe" is a showcase for some of Musillami's tenderest playing; Fonda and Schuller give him sympathetic support and the horns provide muted coloration. "Visions" is a twelve-minute marathon with a fast, steady pace that has the leader chopping chords like a cleaner version of John McLaughlin in the Mahavishnu Orchestra and also features a twittering blues solo from Knuffke and deep, singing tenor from Robinson. Fonda's bubbling, unrelenting bass, a highlight throughout the CD, is at its best here.

Interwoven through these lengthy workouts are shorter, more introspective interludes like the mysterious guitar, flute and bowed bass trio of "Family," the abstract rattles and moans of "Night Walker" and the hopeful theme "Life Anthem," which is played as a poignant solo by Knuffke at the start of the CD and defiantly by the entire ensemble at the end.

The interplay between these five musicians is outstanding. Fonda and Schuller underline everything with a pulsing carpet of rhythm, Musillami's guitar is alternately lyrical, gritty and exploratory, and Robinson and Knuffke bring in an added element of soul and life. This is powerful, urgent stuff. It leaves you feeling that this is the music of someone who has gotten through a serious health crisis and is responding with joy and gratitude. It's one of the year's best recordings so far.

Track Listing: Life Anthem (solo cornet); I Hear Sirens in the Distance; MRI Countdown; Slow Bleed; Dr. Mohamad Khaled, Neurosurgeon; I’m Beginning to Feel Life’s Pulse Again; June Recovery; Nurse Roe; ICU Blues; Visions; Night Walker; Renewed Focus; Family; Think of Something Beautiful; Life Anthem (full ensemble).

Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Jason Robinson: tenor and soprano sax, alto flute.

Title: Life Anthem | Year Released: 2018 | 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 Brothers CD/LP/Track Review
Brothers
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 24, 2018
Read Beheaded Totem CD/LP/Track Review
Beheaded Totem
by James Fleming
Published: September 24, 2018
Read The Fearless Flyers CD/LP/Track Review
The Fearless Flyers
by John Bricker
Published: September 24, 2018
Read Super Mood CD/LP/Track Review
Super Mood
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 24, 2018
Read New Hope CD/LP/Track Review
New Hope
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 23, 2018
Read The Nobuki Takamen Trio CD/LP/Track Review
The Nobuki Takamen Trio
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 23, 2018
Read "Magdalena" CD/LP/Track Review Magdalena
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: July 13, 2018
Read "Absence" CD/LP/Track Review Absence
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 27, 2018
Read "Basic Economy" CD/LP/Track Review Basic Economy
by Paul Rauch
Published: August 4, 2018
Read "Oneness" CD/LP/Track Review Oneness
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 9, 2018
Read "Manhattan" CD/LP/Track Review Manhattan
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 1, 2018
Read "For Gyumri" CD/LP/Track Review For Gyumri
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 19, 2018