Reviews that mention Michael Musillami

July 1, 2018

Michael Musillami Trio +2

Life Anthem
Playscape PSR #091717

From great suffering comes great art or at least that’s what one cliché insists. But in the case of Life Anthem an argument can be made for the statement’s veracity. Recorded a little more than year after an emergency neurosurgery excised the American guitarist Michael Musillami’s unexpected brain hemorrhage and brain tumor, the over-70-minute session has some of the most accomplished writing and playing he’s produced in his more than quarter-century career. Musillami isn’t alone in this. Backing comes from bassist Joe Fonda, known for his work in bands like Conference Call and the FAB trio and drummer George Schuller, with his own Schull Dogs group, both of whom have played with the guitarist since 2002. Musical heft is added by two new collaborators: cornetist Kirk Knuffke and saxophonist/flutist Jason Robinson, both active on the New York scene. MORE

October 15, 2005

Michael Musillami Trio

PSR #020505

Confounding expectations, guitarist Michael Musillami adds a couple of twists to this otherwise exceptional classic guitar trio album. There’s the off-putting title and the fact that his basic combo – bassist Joe Fonda and percussionist George Schuller – is joined by pianist Peter Madsen on two tracks, tenor saxophonist Tom Christensen on one, plus those two and trumpeter Dave Ballou on “Dachau”.

Blighted by its association with the nearby Nazi concentration camp, Dachau is the German city where ironically Musillami felt the trio members’ musical ideas really fused. You can hear that in three of the selections, as the guitarist’s unique chording structure brushes up against Schuller’s unforced time-keeping and Fonda throbbing bass line. Longtime Musillami associate Madsen makes his presence felt on numbers like “Part Pitbull” and “Today the Angels” where his cascading chords and modal voicing push the others into tempo switching face-offs, including staccato guitar licks and exposure of the drummer’s bell and shaker add-ons. MORE

September 1, 2003


Playscape PSR #J121802

Quietly, while many people have been distracted by flashier and/or better promoted guitarists, journeyman Michael Musillami has gone his own way and become a distinctive, exemplary stylist.

He proves it once again on this 11-track recital by stripping down his accompaniment to that of the classic guitar trio with bass and drums. Of course it helps that the bassist is Joe Fonda, who has worked with everyone from composer Anthony Braxton to guzhengist Xu Fengxia, and the drummer George Schuller, whose list of musical associates range from saxophonist Joe Lovano to bassist Mark Helias. MORE

February 24, 2003


Playscape PSR #J21001

Quirky, jaunty, yet uncomplicated improvisations produced by Michael Musillami, Mario Pavone and their quintet have an antecedent in Chico Hamilton’s pace-setting quintets of the 1950s and 1960s.

Hopefully guitarist Musillami and bassist Pavone will take this as a compliment. For in terms of instrumentation, skill and sheer joy of playing, drummer Hamilton’s West Coast combo was as pace setting as it was musically satisfying.

Over the years, West Coast jazz has got a bad rap. But bands like the drummer’s which initially included multi-reedist Buddy Collette, pioneering jazz cellist Fred Katz, inimitable guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Carson Smith, were able to show that you could be inventive and exploratory without being heavy handed about it. Surely Musillami, a California native, must have heard the band in his youth. MORE

June 22, 2002


Part Pitbull
Playscape PSR#J122001

Put aside any preconceptions you have about the guitar-piano duo before you listen to this CD, especially if your reference point is Jim Hall and Bill Evans’ dreamy UNDERCURRENT session.

While guitarist Michael Musillami and pianist Peter Madsen have impeccable contemporary credentials and play their share of slower tempo pieces among the 11 here, they’re aiming for something deeper with this recital. Essentially they’re out to prove that in the right -- and left -- hands, using all original, improvised tunes, the two instruments can sustain moods in many tempos. Cognizant of a potential limited palate, the longest pieces here wisely clock in at 6½ minutes so they don’t wear out their welcomes. MORE