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Michael Musillami and Rich Syracuse: Dig

Read "Dig" reviewed by Troy Dostert

Guitarist Michael Musillami and bassist Rich Syracuse continue their engagement with the titans of the jazz world with Dig, their homage to Bill Evans. Like the discs that preceded it, Of The Night (Playscape, 2016), dedicated to Wayne Shorter and Bird Calls (Playscape, 2017), their salute to Charles Mingus, the duo approach this repertoire with both reverence and imagination, producing treatments that avoid simply capitulating to Evans' genius by opening his tunes to creative scrutiny. It's noteworthy that ...

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Peter Madsen: Curiouser and Curiouser

Read "Curiouser and Curiouser" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

There are times when star ratings don't tell or can't tell the whole story. Five stars, four, three, two, billions upon billions of stars. Veteran pianist Peter Madsen's Curiouser and Curiouser is just one of those times. It's a great listen but is it an essential one? Without being too harsh, no. Is it a disc with plenty of repeat listenings in it? For many yes, for others, probably not. Sorry, but the star system isn't going to work for ...

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Peter Madsen's Storytellers: Curiouser and Curiouser

Read "Curiouser and Curiouser" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

In 2018 Peter Madsen released Never Bet the Devil Your Head (Playscape), a fine CD by his jazz-classical hybrid group, the Seven Seas Ensemble, that was dedicated to the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. Now he brings the jazz half of the Ensemble together for another set of music based on classic literature, this time, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Given the subject, this music has an understandably brighter mood than the Poe project. The “Alice" theme itself ...

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Peter Madsen's Storytellers: Curiouser and Curiouser

Read "Curiouser and Curiouser" reviewed by Troy Dostert

After devoting a number of his recordings on the Playscape label to the songbooks of Thelonious Monk (Sphere Essence: Another Side of Monk, 2003), Billy Strayhorn (Satin Doll, 2017) and even Elvis Presley (Elvis Never Left the Building, 2014), pianist Peter Madsen has since sought out literary texts for inspiration. 2018 was a particularly fruitful year, as Never Bet the Devil Your Head investigated the macabre works of Edgar Allan Poe, while I Ching went in a more philosophical direction ...

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Peter Madsen & Alfred Vogel: I Ching

Read "I Ching" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

Even if it all turns out to be hogwash in the end, the mysteries of the I Ching--its divination powers, its myth and madness--have held the world's consciousness in awe and fear for at least three thousand years. These legends and provocations are explored with resounding depth and clarity on I Ching, with pianist Peter Madsen and drummer Alfred Vogel tackling a series of sixteen captivating improvisations, each predicated on a throw of the I Ching's coins and the variables ...

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Michael Musillami Trio + 2: Life Anthem

Read "Life Anthem" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

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 ...

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Michael Musillami: Life Anthem

Read "Life Anthem" reviewed by Troy Dostert

Guitarist Michael Musillami has been making music with his MM Trio since 2002, when he first teamed up with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller for Beijing (Playscape, 2003). Subsequent albums, all for the Playscape label Musillami founded and continues to run, have sometimes involved just the trio, while others have brought in guests--standout players such as Peter Madsen, Tom Christensen and Dave Ballou (on 2005's Dachau) and Marty Ehrlich, Ralph Alessi and Matt Moran (on 2009's From Seeds). ...

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Peter Madsen: Never Bet The Devil Your Head

Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" reviewed by Troy Dostert

It isn't essential to be a fan of Edgar Allen Poe's uncanny writings to enjoy pianist Peter Madsen's musical tribute to the author, Never Bet the Devil Your Head. But readers familiar with Poe's disturbing fiction will absolutely appreciate the thoughtful touches found in abundance on Madsen's album. With the help of the Seven Sins Ensemble, an Austria-based octet Madsen first utilized on 2012's Gravity of Love (also on Playscape) that includes a string quartet in addition to standard jazz ...

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Michael Musillami: Life Anthem

Read "Life Anthem" reviewed by Don Phipps

Dark, cerebral, moody, Michael Musillami's Life Anthem was inspired by his near-death experience from a brain hemorrhage and tumor. The music takes the listener on a journey from medical crisis to recovery. While the quality of abstract lyricism, improvisation, and musicianship cannot be denied, the music's harsh landscape proves at times frustrating and difficult to navigate. After 15 years of playing together, the talented Musillami and the rest of the trio (Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller ...

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Peter Madsen: Never Bet The Devil Your Head

Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" reviewed by Chris Mosey

Close study of the only existing daguerréotype of American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809--1849) reveals that he bore an extraordinary resemblance to British comedian John Cleese on a bad hair day. Could this be why, despite his many accomplishments, the modern world has trouble taking Poe seriously? Jazz pianist/composer Peter Madsen has no such problems. With this album he revisits a lifelong fascination with Poe and his gothic horror stories. Madsen explains, “Before composing ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Peter Madsen: Never Bet The Devil Your Head

Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

Based on pianist/composer/bandleader Peter Madsen's extensive CV: Stan Getz, Stanley Turrentine, Dewey Redman, Benny Golson, Don Cherry, Kenny Garrett, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Ravi Coltrane, Maceo Parker, Bill Frisell, John Abercombie and the Mingus Big Band, it's not surprising and often brilliant that on his eighth release for Playscape, Madsen exhibits a nearly prog-rock, anything goes flair on Never Bet the Devil Your Head. Inspired by reading a different Edgar Allan Poe story before sitting down and composing, ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Peter Madsen: Never Bet The Devil Your Head

Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" reviewed by Don Phipps

An album like Never Bet The Devil Your Head is meant for one thing--to get inside your head! And it succeeds admirably. Composer and pianist Peter Madsen's inspiration for the music came from several literary masterpieces by the master storyteller and poet Edgar Allen Poe, and each piece is titled after a Poe story or poem. Like Poe's strange and foreboding tales, these musical tales are equally strange and foreboding--but with whimsy, beauty, and a touch of the macabre.


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