Wolfgang Muthspiel ‘Driftwood’ CD (ECM) 3/5

Wolfgang-MuthspielAustrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel debuts for ECM on this recording at the venerable age of forty-six and is surrounded for this most intimate of trio albums by bassist Larry Grenadier, who has recorded as a sideman on the label with Charles Lloyd, and drummer Brian Blade who is a regular member of Wayne Shorter’s long-term quartet as well as performing with an array of musicians from across the spectrum and including among others Bill Frisell, Eddie Harris and Joni Mitchell. On this all-original set of compositions, a couple of tribute numbers pay homage to departed jazz musicians with the gentle-paced ‘Bossa for Brecker’ not in any sense a conventional Bossa piece, but more akin to the 1970s acoustic musings of Pat Metheny who has clearly been a major influence on Muthspiel’s work. Classical influences are strongest on the solo guitar intro to the Italian language ‘Cambiata’, the piece thus titled in reference to a project with Ennio Morricone in mind. There is some welcome relief from the introspective nature of the music on the flamenco guitar-driven number ‘Uptown’ and this may be an avenue that Muthspiel would be well served to explore further in future projects. The tempo overall is a tad laid back and even sombre on the bowed bass of ‘Highline’ and could do with adding little uptempo hues for some welcome variety. Even on the title track, which has a combination of flamenco and classical, the tone is still very much downbeat. That said, there is still some excellent trio ensemble work to admire and both Grenadier and Blade are in fine form.

Tim Stenhouse