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Michael Musillami/Rich Syracuse: Of The Night

Budd Kopman By

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For some reason, Wayne Shorter is in the air, as evidenced by pianist Denny Zeitlin's wonderful Early Wayne and now guitarist Michael Musillami's duo album with bassist Rich Syracuse, Of The Night.

As stated in the earlier review, Shorter tunes, for the most part, are almost immediately recognizable as such without being able to be (accurately) sung. Shorter's melodic, harmonic and rhythmic choices create a Shorter style that is very strong without being easily definable.

However, if there is one thing that says "Shorter," it is the mood that runs through his work —dark, mysterious, sexy, ambiguous and deep. It is this core essence of Shorter that Musillami and Syracuse have captured in a set will whisk you away from the troubles of this world.

The physical sound of the record is the first thing to notice —very cleanly and closely recorded, with Musillami's guitar having just a little reverb. They are playing just for you, as if you were sitting in a club late into the last set. The music flows out of the recording, transforming mere time and space in Shorter-time and Shorter-space.

In the notes, Musillami spends much time talking in general about the joys and challenges of playing in a duo, as well as specifically playing here with Syracuse. Jazz travelers of the same time period, both men count Shorter (along with Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Jim Hall, among others) as prime influences.

Musillami and Syracuse are virtuosi, and they know each other well, and there is no way of telling whether they went over the tunes beforehand or just sat down and let factors Musillami lays out: Technique, Trust, Experience, Compatibility, Instincts and Honesty take over. Of course, we cannot see the nods, the locking of eyes or the knowing smiles, but the music is seamless, and they do "play as one mind," to use a cliche.

The tunes chosen are as follows:

Footprints -(Adam's Apple, Blue Note, 1966)
JuJu -(JuJu, Blue Note, 1965)
Black Nile -(Night Dreamer, Blue Note, 1964)
Children Of The Night (High Life, Verve, 1995)
Iris -(Miles Davis, E.S.P., Columbia, 1965)
One By One -(Art Blakey, Ugetsu: Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at Birdland, Riverside, 1963)
Virgo -(Night Dreamer, Blue Note, 1964)

"Footprints," arguably Shorter's best know tune, is given a magnificent thirteen minute treatment (almost double the length of the other tunes) that begins referencing the tune, more of less closely, but then takes off on a truly thrilling musical journey, touching down now and then. This track, with all of its space, slow development and almost sharp intensity sets the mood for the rest of the album.

Of The Night both dares and encourages the holding of one's mental breath, as Musillami and Syracuse take chances while being completely exposed.

This is music making of the highest order.

Track Listing: TFootprints; Juju; Black Nile; Children Of The Night; Iris; One By One; Virgo.

Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Rich Syracuse: bass.

Title: Of The Night | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

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