A song titled "For Django" would usually feature a hard-swinging gypsy rhythm and rapid-fire guitar lines. Guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel goes in the opposite direction, with a thoughtful mid-tempo piece that places pianist Brad Mehldau and trumpet player Ambrose Akinmusire in the starring role more than himself.
"For Django," despite being the second track, sets the tone for much of Where the River Goes, Muthspiel's forty-first album. The musicians play off each other like a great soccer team, with no single voice dominating the proceedings. Throughout the 48 minute record the band flows in and out of the music at will creating great dynamic and sonic contrast.
Where The River Goes is a voyage to remember with rapids and waterfalls offering great adrenaline rushes balanced by calming tranquil moments on the water. Pianist Mehldau's post-bop inspired "Blueshead" gives each member a chance to show off their chops in a more energetic setting. Drummer Eric Harland is exceptional here with tasteful fills that offer great accents to each solo. Bassist Larry Grenadier does a great job of holding the band together with a solid walking bass-line and contributes a great solo of his own.
Moments of free improvisation on "One Day My Prince Was Gone," offer a great change of pace. This is not to say that Muthspiel never indulges in his virtuosity. Muthspiel switches between acoustic and electric guitar to add different textures to the pieces, and show his ability to perform in different styles. "Buenos Aires" is a stunning solo acoustic tribute to Argentina by the 53-year-old Austrian. His delicate playing sounds mournful at times, expressing great love for a place that is not his home.
The closer "Panorama" is another acoustic showcase for Muthspiel, but this one comes with a twist, as Harland accompanies him throughout. Harland's free-from style gives Muthspiel room to experiment with his melodic and harmonic direction without having to follow a beat resembling a metronome. "Panorama" is a perfect end to the album, it gives Muthspiel the spotlight, while still showcasing the teamwork that makes Where The River Goeswork in the first place.
Where The River Goes; For Django; Descendants; Clearing; Buenos Aires; One Day My Prince Was Gone; Blueshead; Panorama.
Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitar; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: double bass; Eric Harland: drums.
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