Wolfgang Muthspiel / Larry Grenadier / Brian Blade, Driftwood, ECM

From 2014. The Austrian jazz guitarist’s debut as a leader on ECM and what an auspicious beginning. Balancing careful understatement with intense and involved group interplay, Driftwood packs a considerable punch in the way atmosphere is built and …

Published: 14 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

From 2014. The Austrian jazz guitarist’s debut as a leader on ECM and what an auspicious beginning. Balancing careful understatement with intense and involved group interplay, Driftwood packs a considerable punch in the way atmosphere is built and improvisational direction unfolds. Muthspiel has played with both US bassist Larry Grenadier (Brad Mehldau trio, Fly trio) and drummer Brian Blade (Wayne Shorter Quartet, Fellowship) in separate playing situations including Drumfree and Friendly Travelers extensively over the years and for the three to come together makes perfect sense. Recorded in Oslo at the Rainbow studio in May last year, the session beautifully engineered by Jan Erik Kongshaug, the sound is simply stunning, Muthspiel combines two aspects of his playing personality here the acoustic classical guitar side (beautifully gathered on the engrossing ‘Cambiata’) and electric, the little effects like a garnish, on an album mostly made up of his own compositions although the title track, at producer Manfred Eicher’s suggestion, is a piece of free improvisation.

‘Lichtzelle’ was inspired by Olivier Messiaen, Muthspiel having immersed himself in the composer’s music over the years, and Muthspiel’s awareness of jazz history encompasses a tribute to fellow Austrian Joe Zawinul on the track ‘Joseph’, and to Michael Brecker on the final number, ‘Bossa For Michael Brecker’. Altogether it’s a very open, modern, and of-the-now album Blade stripping away the beat and relying on fundamental pulse for much of the drama of the tunes while Grenadier is so adept at allowing the sound to ring out clearly with the immediacy the music needs, the tender arco solo at the beginning of ‘Highline’ one of the many moments of sheer pleasure. SG

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Scott Flanigan, Point of Departure, scottflanigan.com

From 2015. Scott Flanigan is the Belfast jazz scene’s most familiar pianist at the moment, often to be heard at Bert’s jazz bar in the city or performing all over Ireland with a wide range of leaders including Linley Hamilton and Ronnie Greer. …

Published: 14 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

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From 2015. Scott Flanigan is the Belfast jazz scene’s most familiar pianist at the moment, often to be heard at Bert’s jazz bar in the city or performing all over Ireland with a wide range of leaders including Linley Hamilton and Ronnie Greer.

Making room for his own music here in the company of bassist Neil O’Loghlen and drummer Steve Davis the album actually opens with a dark and brooding solo flourish from Flanigan on his own composition ‘The Masterplan’ the album moving on to include other original material of the pianist’s such as the title track and the absorbing ‘Elevate.’

Also included are ‘Love Lost’ by the fine Irish mainstream jazz singer Edel Meade and some standards: ‘Moonlight Serenade’, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ and ‘Stars Fell On Alabama.’

Flanigan reminds me of Ronnie Scott’s house pianist James Pearson a little and like Pearson can journey in and out of the modern mainstream tradition with considerable facility and ease. Flanigan has made a very mature and compelling start here and deserves to be much better known beyond his home scene and he is more than ably supported by O’Loghlen and Davis. SG