Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Michael Musillami Trio - Zephyr (Playscape Recordings, 2015)

Guitarist Michael Musillami wears many hats: label chief, producer, composer, and he combines all of those aspects with aplomb on this album, the eighth with his trio, which features Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller on drums. The compositions are inspired by events in Musillami’s life beginning with “Loops” which has a quiet light touch to its opening, with his guitar building in and adding luminescence to the music. Fonda’s bass has a rich, full bodied sound which he uses to great effect during a solo spot supported by light drums and guitar. The focus moves back to the leader, who takes control with a nimble sounding solo over understated bass and drums. “Pacific School” has a quietly probing nature, allowing for some nice brushwork from Schuller and the trio uses repetition to build momentum to take off into their improvised section. Their tightness as a unit, crystalized over many years of performance allows them to develop dynamic waves of music that rise and fall as the music demands it. Musillami’s lengthy guitar solo is played with confidence and grace, with no unnecessary showmanship. Fonda solos once again, in a beautifully melodic fashion then giving the band the boost to come together for the conclusion. There is a tension like a coiled spring running through “Zephyr Cove” with a cool neon beam of guitar tone setting and alluring, mysterious theme. The music unfolds in a complex but not inaccessible fashion, which is quite understated as Mussillami leads by example with bass and drums in close support. His tone moves into slightly darker territory, slithery, moving at will in an unexpected and exciting manner. “Environmental Studies” has a snappy melody, which the trio uses to snarls of guitar and crackling drums over elastic bass. Schuller swings mightily while Mussillami’s guitar floats and Fonda’s bass keeps everyone tethered. With brightly colored chords, a supple bass solo and rolling mischievous drums this makes for one of the highlights of the album. This album worked very well – there is a quiet confidence that the musicians have in each other and in the music that they are playing that is evident, and they are able to distill their music to a core that needs no adornment but simply is. Zephyr - amazon.com

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