Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Michael Musillami’s Dialect: Fragile Forms

The open-eared, elastic rhythm tandem of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Matt Wilson is perfectly suited to simultaneously ground and extrapolate on Musillami’s quirky, angular compositions. Add pianist-provocateur Peter Madsen to the heady mix as harmonic foil to Musillami’s inside/outside six-string work-part Jim Hall, part Dom Minasi-and you’ve got a remarkably vibrant quartet recording that challenges both players and listeners alike.

A protean player with a prolific output over the past six years, Musillami can swing assertively in legit postbop fashion, as on “Discreet Plucking,” but even within that fairly conventional rhythmic context his note choices are still unpredictable. Gress is a marvel on that adventurous centerpiece with his daring, deep-toned solo while the ever-ready Wilson swings discreetly underneath. Madsen contributes some provocative counterpoint to the proceedings that slowly builds to a whirlwind solo of Cecil-esque proportions.

Musillami showcases his skronkish side on the playfully explosive opener “Seven Blend” and the chugging, angular funk of “Ernie the Neck” (an ode to his 210-pound Great Dane), then reveals his gentle soul on the poignant ballad “Emmett Spencer,” which is beautifully underscored by Wilson’s tastefully expressive brushwork.

The free-blowing title-track is a showpiece for a turbulent, two-fisted Madsen solo. The atmospheric closer “Beijing” has Wilson coloring with cymbals and gongs as Madsen plays inside the piano. Musillami voices with the slide and the piece coalesces into a sprightly romp of tight unisons between all four kindred spirits, only to then evolve into freer terrain. Though he’s a stickler for form in the heads, Musillami flies with impunity over these more open-ended sections in unbridled free-bop fashion.

Originally Published