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Paul Musso: Tonescapes

Florence Wetzel By

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It's always an exciting moment when a musician decides to take the plunge and release a debut CD, and it's especially noteworthy when the musician in question is already mature and deeply seasoned. This is certainly the case with guitarist Paul Musso and Tonescapes. Over the past decades, Musso has played in a diverse range of settings including jazz clubs, the Colorado Symphony, the Boulder Festival Orchestra, and the Aspen Music Festival. He's also taught guitar for almost twenty years at the University of Colorado at Denver, plus written several Mel Bay jazz guitar books. After all these years, Musso knows his instrument intimately, and now it's his turn to shine.

Tonescapes is a lovely CD, made up of seven Musso originals that reveal the delight and depth of his guitar work. Each song is a gem, including the standout "Waltz for Karen," an exquisitely pretty melody where Musso displays his ability to imbue each note with luminosity and emotional depth. The song also showcases his excellent accompanists: Vlad Girshevich is an eloquent pianist with impressive technical facility, Drew Morrell delivers steady bass support with plenty of space, and drummer Jill Fredericksen provides a light, understated touch that effortlessly swings the group.

Other highlights include "Green Eyed Blues Cake," a charming melody propelled by Musso's fluid waterfall of notes, plus a spritely solo by Girshevich that's full of cascading runs. "Silent Eyes" is a romantic song that interweaves love and sorrow, providing a deeply affecting example of how certain feelings are best expressed through sound—as Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once said, "Music is the shorthand of emotion." The CD's crown jewel is the seven-minute "L'ete" ("The Summer," in French). It's a deliciously tender song infused with the warmth of Mediterranean breezes, as well as a faint tang of melancholy. Musso's tone is sublime and utterly natural, and Girshevich's solo is subtle and enchanting, like sunlight sparkling on water. "L'ete" is a beauty—gentle and simply gorgeous.

In addition to its other virtues, Tonescapes comes with the imprimatur of guitar master Jim Hall, surely the holy grail of guitarist endorsements. With characteristic grace and economy, Hall states that "Tonescapes is a beautiful CD with nice tone and melodic surprises." The CD also reveals the pleasures of a ripened talent in full bloom, and provides satisfaction for both the ears and the heart.

Track Listing: Green Eyed Blues Cake; L’ete; Jungle Jim; Waltz for Karen; Velveeta; Silent Eyes; Tonescapes.

Personnel: Paul Musso: guitar; Vlad Girshevich: piano; Drew Morell: bass; Jill Fredericksen: drums.

Title: Tonescapes | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced

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