Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitars; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Brian Blade: drums.
Wolfgang Muthspiel, an Austrian guitarist/composer who feels comfortable both in acoustic and electric settings, has a new album, his third on ECM Records.
In Driftwood (2014), his previous work for that label, he counted on the bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade, a longtime associate, to bring his compositions to life.
In Rising Grace, a seamless preparation of post-bop and classical, he expands the trio into a quintet with the addition of reputable trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and pianist Brad Mehldau.
Their adventure starts with the title track, a gracious piece where sonorous articulations interlace one another, floating like dust in the wind. Muthspiel plays the acoustic guitar and his open chords go perfectly well with Mehldau’s textural lines. Akinmusire’s trumpet entering in a suspended mode, nearly touches the style of Kenny Wheeler, the honoree in “Den Wheeler, Den Kenny”.
Guitarist and pianist combine flawlessly once again in the acoustic “Intensive Care”, a spacious, slow waltz that draws symmetric melodies over trenchant harmonic patterns.
The bandleader switches to the electric guitar in the tuneful “Triad Song”, likely the easiest tune to empathize with. By turns, it features Mehladu’s enchanting lyricism, Muthspiel’s equilibrated language, and Akinmusire’s tranquilizing and clamant melodic phrases.
“Father and Son” is a nomadic adventure that leans on world music. Grenadier drives the caravan, laying down spellbinding grooves and establishing an appealing foundation with the help of Blade, whose drumming is imperatively suave. Meanwhile, Akinmusire continues to impress whenever he intervenes.
Mehldau wrote “Wolfgang’s Waltz” for the guitarist, who goes pure jazzy during his solo, while the ruminative “Superonny” and “Boogaloo” have an assured foot on contemporary jazz, relying on audacious compound meters to flow.
Guiding the nifty quintet with self-assurance, Muthspiel creates imaginary landscapes whose limpid tones and polished forms bring optimism, introspection, and clarity. Those are real.
Defying specific categorizations, Rising Grace is pure charm and musical aesthetics.
01 – Rising Grace ► 03 – Triad Song ► 07 – Boogaloo