Wolfgang Muthspiel: Angular Blues (ECM 2655)

2655 X

Wolfgang Muthspiel
Angular Blues

Wolfgang Muthspiel guitar
Scott Colley double bass
Brian Blade drums
Recorded August 2018 at Studio Dede, Tokyo
Engineer: Shinya Matsushita
Assistants: Yuki Ito and Akihito Yoshikawa
Mixed at Studios La Buissonne by Manfred Eicher, Wolfgang Muthspiel, and Gérard de Haro (engineer)
Mastering: Nicolas Baillard
Album produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: March 20, 2020

On Angular Blues, Wolfgang Muthspiel revives the format of his 2016 ECM leader debut. Rejoined by drummer Brian Blade yet inviting bassist Scott Colley in place of Larry Grenadier, the Austrian guitarist serves a full course of originals with a couple of surprises added to taste. The members of this trio share what Muthspiel calls a “love of song” and perhaps no more succinct a term could so accurately describe their rapport. Longtime listeners won’t be surprised that Muthspiel has brought together players who understand the value of space: how to shape it, to be sure, but more importantly how to let oneself be shaped by it in kind.

The narrative impulses of the opener, “Wondering,” harness the flexibility of Muthspiel’s acoustic playing, which in this context meshes with bass while kissed cymbals draw the z-axis of a three-dimensional sound. Moods cycle between gentility and insistence and shades between. The title track is aptly named for revealing a delicately virtuosic side to the energies at hand. “Hüttengriffe” follows with a soft-hewn anthem.

The remaining tunes find Muthspiel plugged-in, jumping into the amorphous body of his electric guitar. In “Camino” he is equally at home, his fingers free to engage in metaphysical play. As a thinly veiled tribute to the late John Abercrombie—not only in style but also in the way Muthspiel drafts his solo—it’s a highlight that deserves close listening. Others include “Kanon in 6/8,” which shows the trio at its deepest level of synergy (it’s also offset by the digitally enhanced “Solo Kanon in 5/4”), and bebop-influenced “Ride.” Two standards fill in the gaps. Where Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love” moves vertically, “I’ll Remember April” ends this worthy set on a horizontal plane.

(This review originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

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