Saturday, November 29, 2014

Michael Musillami - Pride (Playscape, 2014)

Guitarist Michael Musillami stays quite busy with his duties as a label head and producer in addition to recording about one album per year of predominately original music. This album may be one of his most expansive projects: two CD's, one studio and one live both with his crack trio mates Joe Fonda on bass and Gunther Schuller on drums, and high profile guests in both sessions. Disc one is the studio album where the core trio is joined by Kris Davis on piano and Jimmy Greene on tenor saxophone. Greene sits in admirably on the tracks "Bald Yet Hip" and "Courageous David B." playing in a bright and swinging fashion. Not to make light of either his or the trio's contributions, but Kris Davis is simply stellar throughout this whole disc. Whether providing insightful accompaniment or endlessly inventive soloing, she just steals the show. Musillami is a magnanimous and generous leader, allowing Davis the space she needs to truly spread her wings. She is continually thought of as an up-and-coming musical powerhouse but with this excellent performance and her recent albums as a leader, her time has truly come to stand with the best contemporary jazz pianists. Disc two is a freewheeling live date where the Musillami/Fonda/Schuller trio is joined by violinist Mark Feldman. This is a much more even handed date, as the musicians are stretching out into only four lengthy tracks that allow plenty of solo opportunities for all involved. Feldman is a fine addition to the group, swooping and sawing through the band, adding swathes of color that allude to classical music and Americana as well as modern jazz. The familiarity of the core trio leads for a cohesiveness that allows even the freest improvisation to maintain balance. This was a long collection of music, over two hours, but it never felt over indulgent. Musillami knows how to pick some of the finest players on the contemporary jazz scene and place them in situations where both he and they shine brightly. Pride -

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