Wolfgang Muthspiel ‘Angular Blues’ LP/CD (ECM) 5/5

For his fourth ECM album as leader, Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel returns to the trio format, with Scott Colley on bass and Brian Blade on drums. The interplay between the three musicians is especially organic on this recording, helping imbue the trio with its own personal dynamic.

Whilst each of the groups Muthspiel has put together for his previous ECM outings has enjoyed a special rapport, most notably perhaps his previous session featuring pianist Brad Mehldau on “Where The River Goes”, there appears to be more of an intuitive musical conversation going on here which is, after all, what the best trios hope to achieve.

Scott Colley brings a fresh, earthy edge to Muthspiel’s compositions. His connectedness to both the guitar and the drums kind of holds everything together in a subtle, effortless way. But it is Brian Blade’s contribution that is possibly most striking. In a quiet, skillful way, he uses his experience wisely, knowing intuitively what to bring to the tunes themselves. Blade’s own innovative music with his Fellowship Band, alongside his own songwriting skills on the exquisite “Mama Rosa”, make him the perfect drummer to sit alongside Colley and Muthspiel.

Along with the guitarist’s characteristically melodic originals, the trio play a couple of Standards, as well as Muthspiel’s first ever bebop rhythm tune, and a single guitar only piece. The whole album sits together wonderfully well, with the first three tunes featuring Muthspiel on acoustic guitar, with the rest on electric. A hypnotic glow resonates throughout the entire recording, with a crystalline joy emanating from the music being made. Muthspiel’s guitar playing is both creative and subtle, yet punchy and adventurous when required.

From the gorgeously opulent opener “Wondering”, to the gentle and contemplative “Hüttengriffe”, from the engrossing “Kanon in 6/8” to the superlative “I’ll Remember April”, the trio effortlessly speak their own melodically warm and welcoming jazz language. Fluent and inventive, this is a wonderful trio recording that I’ll be returning to time and time again.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Wolfgang Muthspiel ‘Rising Grace’ 2LP/CD (ECM) 4/5
Wolfgang Muthspiel ‘Driftwood’ CD (ECM) 3/5