Reviews that mention George Schuller

September 1, 2018

Jason Robinson’s Janus Ensemble:

Resonant Geographies
pfMentum PFMCD 115

Using all the sonic colors available from an 11-piece ensemble, San Diego-based tenor saxophonist Jason Robinson has composed a seven-part suite that articulates straightforward swing without sacrificing exploratory touches. While recruiting some exceptional talent, Robinson’s writing emphases its uniqueness with a non-expected orchestration that includes three low-brass players, four reeds divided between saxophone and clarinets, two percussionists. plus double bass and guitar. While the expansive arrangements are sometimes enlarged enough to reflect Stan Kenton orchestra at its most restrained, the bedrock riffs and rhythms relate back to more subtle organization of the pre-war Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington bands. MORE

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

December 11, 2015

Lest We Forget

Gunther Schuller
By Ken Waxman

During his long professional career Gunther Schuller, who died this past June and was born November 22, 1925, was a French horn player, composer, conductor, author, university professor, record company and orchestra founder, festival administrator and conservatory president, whose associates included Aaron Copeland, John Lewis and Charles Mingus. But for certain segments of the music world he’s best-known for a phrase he coined during a 1957 lecture at Brandeis University: Third Stream. While his idea of uniting the streams of jazz and classical music into a tributary that melded influences from both was initially greeted with derision, nearly a half-century later cross over between the two is increasingly common. MORE

March 3, 2014

George Schuller’s Circle Wide

Listen Both Ways
Playscape PSR # 053112

A restrained percussionist and bandleader, George Schuller, who will be playing The Rex March 4 and 5 as part of an all-star aggregation featuring guitarist Michael Musillami and bassist Joe Fonda, exhibits his gift for composition and arrangements on this quintet session.

Most of the tunes sparkle with easy swing based on the clever juxtaposition of Peter Apfelbaum’s tenor saxophone with Brad Shepik’s guitar and Tom Beckham’s vibes. Besides Schuller’s drumming whose rebounds often cuff and prod the soloists into an architecturally perfect presentation, Dave Ambrosio’s bass holds the rhythm steady. The saxman, who suggests what Stan Getz would sound like had he sharpened his tone after the early 1960s, outputs a slurry efficiency on straightforward tunes such as “Could This Be the Year?” yet can also spew out dramatic split tones on “A Map Would Help” while backed by shaking guitar licks, cascading rustles from the drummer and popping aluminum bar resonation from the vibist. MORE

October 7, 2012

Mike Baggetta Quartet

Source Material
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 388

By Ken Waxman

Trying to forge a singular path with a saxophone-guitar quartet is the monumental task guitarist Mike Baggetta has set himself in this package of attractive originals. But Baggetta, who plays with everyone from trumpeter Tom Harrell to drummer Kevin Norton, and has recorded on-the-edge free improv with trumpeter Kris Tiner, appears content to stay within the parameters set by such reed-string teams as Vic Juris-Dave Liebman and Jim Hall-Sonny Rollins.

Still the source material of Source Material played by Baggetta’s working group of reed man Jason Rigby, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer George Schuller is too often low key. Although there are points at which the geometric arrangements recall the thematic repetition of early Carla Bley compositions, but as one mellow narrative follows another, the startling spikiness found in her work is never present and sorely missed. Schuller’s paced pops rarely upset the intensive interplay, nor do Opsvik’s solid thumps. Rigby’s well-modulated tenor saxophone trills sometimes suggest an updated Zoot Sims, especially when they connect in broken octave harmonies with Baggetta’s smartly paced licks, but most of the nine tracks drag at mid-tempos. MORE

May 12, 2010

Trio This

GM Recordings GM3050CD

Jimmy Bennington Trio

Another Friend: The Music of Herbie Nichols

That Swan! Records 1006


Saints and Sinners

El Gallo Rojo 314-31

Re-imagining the scope of one of the hoariest of jazz’s traditional formations – the piano trio – demands foresight, guts and technical prestidigitation. This is especially true if the pianist, bassist and drummer involved are going to deal mostly with the standard repertoire. 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

January 2, 2003


Playscape PSR #J111300

Sometimes, it seems, it pays to live in what many people would figure are the jazz boondocks.

At least that’s what the audience in attendance at The Outpost in Albuquerque, N. M. must have felt a couple of years ago when they got to participate in this exceptional live recording by drummer George Schuller’s Schulldogs. What the Brooklyn-based percussionist did that night was to plop a little bit of downtown Manhattan into the American southwest, count off six of his compositions, and let the chips fall where they would. MORE