Sunday, August 31, 2014
Guitar Trios Plus
The disk closes with "Wild Things Music", 4 songs from a suite Musillami composed to accompany a reading of Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are." Like the book and the drawings that inspired it, the moods of the music range from dark and foreboding to playful and downright rowdy. Ms. Davis is an integral part of the music from the opening seconds to the last tones, seamlessly matching her intensity to the Trio's exuberance.
"Swedish Fish" opens the set, a high-energy piece that excites not only the crowd but the band. Once the 4 musicians leave the "theme" section, the music exploded with feisty solos and great rhythm section work. "Human Conditions" features a melody picked and plucked by the guitarist and violinist plus playful movement in and out of solos. Schuller's subtly forceful drumming underpins Feldman's expansive solo then drops out as Musillami and Fonda execute a nifty dialogue filled with counterpoint and call-and-response. The 20-minute "Beijing" is a multi-sectioned tour-de-force that starts softly but picks up in excitement as the 4 musicians move into the body of the piece. Everyone but Schuller solos in the first 11 minutes then the guitarist returns to solo over a "straight-ahead" rhythm. After that solo reaches its climax, everyone drops out for the drummer who, at first, quietly with hand percussion, then with growing intensity, delivers a rhythmic and melodic solo dropping back down to a whisper before the guitarist returns to the opening theme. Overall, the performance is dramatic and emotionally satisfying.
"Pride" is powerful music played by musicians who have no fear of the unknown and great trust in each other. The music that Michael Musillami composes for these various combinations is written knowing the strengths of his partners and their intuitive natures. Messrs. Fonda and Schuller are adventurous, supportive, and playful throughout the program - the listener should pay special attention to how they interact and support the soloists and the composed material. The guests are not afterthoughts or add-ons but full participants in the adventure. For more information, go to www.michaelmusillami.com.
Kris Davis joins the Michael Musillami Trio in concert at Firehouse 12 on October 3, 2014 (writer's note: the evening of Yom Kippur - darn!) - for more information, go to firehouse12.com.
Sivan composed 8 of the 10 tracks, the exceptions being the expansive reading of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (from Disney's "Cinderella") - one hears the influence of the late Jim Hall in the rippling horn-like phrases of the guitar solo (not to mention the various song quotes Sivan throws in). Tom Jobim's "Useless Landscape" shows that the group can move in-and-out of tempo without losing its forward motion and also play an intense piece without raising the volume.
"For Emotional Use Only" ought to introduce guitarist Rotem Sivan to a larger audience (his previous release is on SteepleChase). The program is a delight from start-to-finish, the musicianship top-notch and the execution delightful. You can listen late at night without waking anyone in the house (but not in the car with the windows open.) More, please! For more information, go to www.rotemsivan.com.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy this music is to start at the beginning and let it go. It will take the interested listener 2 or 3 times through program to tell the tunes apart. There are traces of John Abercrombie in the sound and melody phrases of "Homecoming" and isn't that the opening riff of Miles's "Milestones" that shows up now and then. The second transition piece, "Collective", introduces the acoustic guitar into the set plus sets the stage for Bollenback's lovely ballad "Sunset" - he articulates his notes with such grace on this track and the more up-tempo (and Brazilian sounding) "Little Island" that these tracks really stand out. The subtle rhythms and sway of "Dance of Hands" and the quiet yet emotional strength of "Dance Delicious" display a gentleness , 2 more acoustic guitar tracks with song melodic content and intuitive interplay. The trio never substitutes technique for content, endless riffs for melody and it's important to mention that the rhythm section is not there just to support the guitarist but to interact, to give him ideas and to push him in new directions.
By the time one reaches the final track, the blues-soaked "Swingin' At Capones", I can't imagine one not being satisfied with these "Portraits." Paul Bollenback can and does play with great gusto but a good percentage of this recording shows off a well-developed sense of melody. Kudos to Joseph Lepore and Rogerio Boccato for their stellar contributions. For more information, go to www.paulbollenback.com.