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Quinton Q-0402-2 / distrib. Egea Records

Muthspiel, Johnson, Blade
Air, Love & Vitamins

1. Air, Love & Vitamins (Harry Pepl)
2. Panis Angelicus (Vince Mendoza)
3. Kind Of In Between (Wolfgang Muthspiel)
4. After 6 (Wolfgang Muthspiel)
5. Floater (Carla Bley)
6. New Song (Aydin Esen)
7. Nydia (Wolfgang Muthspiel)
8. Snare – Tourists (Wolfgang Muthspiel)

Wolfgang Muthspiel guitar
Marc Johnson
bass
Brian Blade
drums

From the title of this album, Air, Love & Vitamins, just the first element, "air", surely permeates the different ethereal and aerial atmosphere of about all the tracks in the sequence. Three high-levelled musicians are protagonists: double bass player Marc Johnson, rhythm-melodic line in the glorious Bill Evans Trio, Brian Blade and his impressionistic drum inflections, with whom Wolfgang Muthspiel aligns himself. This young guitar player is considered to be among the most interesting new representatives of the jazz and classic-contemporary landscape (not to forget that he wrote compositions for the Viennese ensemble "Klangforum", and performed in solo concerts at the London Queen Elizabeth Hall and at the Vienna State Opera House).

Actually, Wolfgang already had some past experiences with both Johnson (Perspective 1996 and Work in progress 1999) and Blade (Daily Mirror, 2000), with each of them separately and also together on a previous disc in trio (Real Book Stories, 2001). Not to mention that, besides working with Gary Burton, Dave Liebman, Paul Motian and Patricia Barber on their own CDs, many renowned jazz-players appear on his records, such as Bob Berg, Peter Erskine, John Patitucci, Tom Harrell, George Garzone, Joe Lovano, and Gary Peacock. Which reflects the artistic depth of his "young" career.

Since in its start this recording is mainly devoted to an acoustic sound, hatched by the velvet and penetrating timbre of Johnson's double bass, layered upon Blade's filamentous and thin rhythm textures: in respect of that, in Harry Pepl's opening piece, Air, Love & Vitamins, the on/off switch is only useful for amplifying the plain notes of Muthspiel's electric guitar, otherwise voiceless.

An elegant and intimate sound comes out, where the neat and easy phrasing of the guitar is perfectly inserted with a vague "scofieldish" stamp. Incredible is the version of Panis aneglicus, an air from the Christian religious tradition, with an arrangement written by the eclectic and inexhaustible Vince Mendoza. Here, the intimacy of the prayer is provided by the subdued tones, and also by the simplicity of the solo fretwork of the guitar player. Exquisite example of how much surprising the jazz can still and will ever be in its singular realizations.

A particular appeal is stirred up in Kind of in between by the contrapuntal weaving among the ten strings of guitar and bass, in the parts reserved to the two instruments singularly: this denotes not only a wonderful acoustic syntony, but also a sound mixture where no element serves as support to another, but everyone is an accomplice and author of the overall result. The sober the walking bass in After 6, taken down by Johnson after the short guitar intro, and interposed by accentuations on the low fractions that make the measure – seemingly – intriguing and inextricable, is on the contrary an elementary one. Double bass soloing, elastic and elegant, rich in colours, full-bodied but delicate in its touching, firm and dynamic in its phrasing. A fresco of lightness, intentionally "corrupted", on the coda, by the use – very moderate indeed – of the distortion on Muthspiel's instrument, which gives rise to an energetic and whirling crescendo.

Completely reduced to the complex structural elementariness of the trio – and particularly of this one – floating Carla Bley's Floater: originally recorded by Paul Bley's piano trio in 1963 (Footloose, Savoy), and then by Bley himself, it was re-proposed in the early '90s with a homologue line-up, where already Johnson's double bass appeared (Plays Carla Bley, Steeplechase). In Muthspiel/Johnson/Blade's version, all drenched with an indefinite melodic suspension and a tonal-harmonic indeterminateness, and restored in an impalpably blues form by the cadences and the rhythm stress of Blade only, it seems marked by such a research of sound responsiveness in silence, of which Miles Davis was master and forerunner. On Blade's brushes, a vibrating Aydin Esen's slow ballad, New Song, lets us come back to a more lyrical dimension with the alternation of the chords – developed, anyway, through over-recordings of the guitar – where the melodic and harmonic tensions, cipher characteristic of this trio and its renderings, are solved by the tonal hits of the Austrian guitarist. And in this sense, also Blade lavishes, using several environmental percussions.

Less contiguous and more broken is the voice of the guitar on Nydia because of the lack of the overlapping previously applied and with more interchange and intersection between Muthspiel's and Blade's own strings: the result is a straight performance, more truthful, where darting scales, rarely dirty or inaccurate, have a precious role. An "aquatic" interlude from Blade's drums, someway muffled, contrasting with the argentine squirts of his cymbals, on Snare; then, after a bland musical accompaniment, in continuity Tourists, arpeggio of sixth/ninth spread throughout the tune, whereas the theme is treated by cutting effects referable to the filtered strings of Johnson, vibrated by the bow.

Stated that, where not differently indicated, the compositions are all Muthspiel's works, the whole outcome is a very interesting disc under the point of view of the emotion, where the variety of the proposals – tradition, ballads, tensions, distension, originals – corresponds to the uniqueness of the understanding between the featured players and to the fluid density of the main – but not absolute or primary – voice of the guitar.

The last word is reserved to the quality of the graphic format: the studied photographic games and paperboard case – well very strong – which makes the package really a mini-book to leaf through.
Antonio Terzo for Jazzitalia







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Publishing Date: 15/01/2005

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