Guitarist Michael Musillami has seized onto the meaning of irreplaceable moments with Old Tea, dedicated to his 29-year-old son, who took his own life on March 10, 2009. In an extraordinarily touching story, Musillami's liner notes say what cannot be said musically. But the music, executed by his outstanding regular trio, expresses more than can be verbalized.
Bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller take on Musillami's music with a sensitivity befitting the celebration of human life. The record is concerned with continuity and the transformation of colors. Only one break between tracks is noticeable; the music flows, as one instrument's sound interweaves with and yields to another.
"Introduction" finds guitar opening in skillful pizzicato form, with a backdrop of bowed bass and the tinkling of small chimes, reverently laying the groundwork for the unfolding of Musillami's compositions, starting with the title track. Musillami's guitar playing reflects an internal world, expanding and contracting from stepped-up rhythmic melodies and poignant tunefulness to fiery amplified surges within the same musicscape.
Fonda and Schuller are completely engrossed in the tide of musical changes. In several solo interludes, Fonda can be heard vocalizing, emphasizing his own playing, which, in itself, bears great presence as his lithe fingers lay out themes, bend pitches and craft figures that maintain pace with Musillami's thoroughly masterful rendering of phrases. Schuller's drumming speaks endless waves of rhythm and atmosphere. He snaps his brushes accurately and wields his sticks with character and steadiness.
The closing track echoes the opening, as the guitar and bass interact and the cymbals hiss. Fonda switches to flute to play an appropriately heavy-hearted coda.
Track Listing: Introduction; Old Tea; Shiner at Rocky's; The Binary Smirk (drum
interlude); 'King Alok; Kitchen Tribute (collective interlude); Evy-boy;
A True Original; Jameson #30 (bass interlude); Umbrella Top...That's How
I Roll; Three Hundred Plus.
Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Joe Fonda: bass, flute; George Schuller:
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.