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Mike Mainieri / Marnix Busstra Quartet: Twelve Pieces

Jerry D'Souza By

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The first meeting between vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and guitarist Marnix Busstra took place when Mainieri played on one of Busstra's earlier recordings. This led to a tour during which they looked at extending that musical relationship. One aspect would be different; they would collaborate in an acoustic setting, away from the electric projects they were currently involved in. From that seed of thought sprung this highly inventive recording. Each of the twelve pieces is a revelation in terms of development, harmony and resolution.

Mainieri and Busstra complement each other perfectly. Mainieri has a long and checkered career in bands that played a wide range of music, and has has honed his craft to a fine skill, bringing a distinct flair to his music with an unerring sense of melody and a sharp tack for direction. Busstra is a constant wheel of invention, with technique expanded by his creative urge to find something new, an evolving state that adds immeasurably to his art.

The music is melodious and seductive. Mainieri and Busstra play with caring intimacy, letting the melody unfold and caress with deep lyricism. On "It's Done," the guitarist reinvents the use of space, at first giving his notes plenty of room to saturate the melody with its gentle flow. Later, he lets them fall in close cleave without suffocating the tune. It is a masterly exhibition of how a composition can be transformed. Mainieri on the other hand, plays with direct focus, the tangent adding to the character of the development.

The passion comes through even when they change direction, as on the bop-driven "Don't Break Step." Busstra opens on electric guitar, fiery progressions backlit by a warm glow and a swinging air. Mainieri kindles a lighter and freeflowing ambience that dances nimbly over Peter Bast's skittering drums.

"Kannada" is the language of the Southern Indian state of Karnataka; here, the title of a composition that builds on a folk tune, coming in on vocals sung in the language by a local group of girls. The quartet pays homage to the indigenous integrity of the song in a touching passage of rite from the East to the West. The improvisation does not distance itself from the melodic heartland, making this a testament to the vision and art of the band.

The remaining music is beautifully enunciated as well. It matters not whether the blues snap in, or a Spanish breeze wafts across; the effect of this recording is riveting.

Track Listing: Old Fashion; Don't Break Step; Lost in Little Spain; Piece; It's Done; Square Brown; Where Am I?; Kannada; Mike's 'Piece'; Old Men's Home; All in a Row; The Same New Story.

Personnel: Marnix Busstra: guitars, bouzouki, electric sitar; Eric van der Westen: double-bass; Pieter Bast: drums; Mike Mainieri: vibraphone.

Title: Twelve Pieces | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: NYC Records

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