GuitarBass, May 2011
Beautifully played, simmering, forefront jazz that you simply have to hear. Muthspiel, Scherrer and Grenadier have us hanging on every phrase.
Truly elegant stuff.
AllAboutJazz.com, 15.07.2011, Raul D'Gama Rose
Drumfree contains some of the most stimulating three-way counterpoint written and played in a long time. All of the compositional credit goes to Wolfgang Muthspiel, the composer; but making it all come alive is Muthspiel, the guitarist, and his chosen partners for this date: saxophonist Andy Scherrer and bassist Larry Grenadier. Muthspiel leads from the front with the warmth and splendor of his authoritative voice. The guitarist is deeply rooted in the harmonic ideas of European music, with phrases fully formed and informed by the contrapuntal ideas that spring from the tradition of Bach.
Muthspiel is also a sublime melodist, taking leave from Mozart as much as he does some of his contemporaries spread across the landscape of modern music. He has certainly heard the ancestors of his chosen instrument, from Charlie Christian and Freddie Green to Wes Montgomery. But he has also listened carefully to pianists Bill Evans and the magical Abdullah Ibrahim.
Muthspiel's is a unique voice. Bright and singing, it sets the music aglow with bubbling melody and sophisticated harmony ensconced in an enormous palette of colors, which the guitarist applies with deft touch and exacting technique. He plays single notes with joyful clarity, triads and chords with a sense of purpose to bring about a sunburst of colors. His ability to make outstanding timbral pronouncements puts him in a league presided over by the sublime mastery of Ralph Towner. Here, too, Muthspiel holds his own, delivering on the promise held out for his ingenuity as well. His dialogs with that other master on this date, Grenadier, are a joy to hear, whether they are navigating a complex musical portrait in "Ibrahim," or swinging in and out of a minor blues, "Double Blues," where Muthspiel trades thirds with Grenadier, then dropping back to comp in the shadow of the bassist's deep grumbling solo. Then Muthspiel dives behind Scherrer's lush soloing, before playing a maddeningly brilliant harmonic figure to lead the trio into Grenadier's solo.
In between it all there is music that reveals Muthspiel's mastery of various modes. This is a result of making music in Europe, where the musician is surrounded by craftsmanship and history that impels the artist into the Greco-Roman world of exactitude, as well as into the beautiful florid world of the baroque era, when Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi held sway.
Being surrounded by all things melodic and Mozart also must have counted for something. Muthspiel has absorbed all this as well as enough of the tradition of the blues to make music that is not only worldly in vision, but also contemporary in relevance. He demonstrates an unaffected style, letting it all emerge with just the right amount of intellect and emotion on "Ralphone," and the crowning moments of "Raumzeit," where Grenadier's arco playing is sublime.
Despite Muthspiel's travels through time this remains a truly modern guitar album.
guardian.co.uk, 31.03.2011, John Fordham
After a few years in Pat Metheny's wake in the 1980s, Austria's Wolfgang Muthspiel became an excellent jazz guitarist with his own take on the intersections between postbop, world music and swing. His trio includes Brad Mehldau bassist Larry Grenadier and Swiss saxophonist Andy Scherrer. They exhibit something of a lounge-jazz purr at first, but then their real story emerges, featuring the empathetic and anticipatory partnership of Muthspiel and Grenadier, an encounter comparable in purity of sound, ideas and clarity of expression to that of Metheny and bass legend Charlie Haden. The music touches some iconic jazz bases, sometimes hinting at the skimming runs of Django Reinhardt, or Charlie Byrd's graceful swirls on the famous jazz-samba sessions. But if orthodox jazz is its essence, Drum Free ranges way beyond it, into heated flamenco references, elegant contemporary-classical sketches and a finale for rippling finger-style melody over cello-like bowed bass that sidelines all preoccupations with genre or category.
Mojo, 2011, Chris Ingham
Master guitarist heads fine new chamber jazz trio.
A good drummer is a blessing, a provocation, an inspiration.
But take away the drums and the space left invites a world od hitherto hidden possibilities.
Fill that space with inspired compositions by Wolfgang Muthspiel along with aerated ensembles and lithe improvisations from the guitarist and his compatriots Andy Scherrer (saxophones) and Larry Grenadier (bass) and you have a record not far of a masterpiece.
Concentrating largely on plangent acoustic guitar, Muthspiel creates a rarified, enchanted world at the jazz/classical tipping point while Grenadier indulges in some lovely arco playing, a bowing technique rarely rquired when in the Brad Mehldau Trio, an Scherrer's lyrical bop-and-beyond apporach covers all the bases.
The string squeaks and woody fingerboard rattles merge poetically to enhance the immediacy and intimacy of this transporting music.
The Irish Times, 15.04.2011, Ray Comiskey
Despite its understated nature, the music of Wolfgang Muthspiel's new trio has an innate strength that quickly becomes apparent. It derives in part from the quality of those involved; with the leader on guitars, Larry Grenadier on bass and Andy Scherrer on saxophones, that's a given. But Muthspiel's compositions, which include several lovely ballads, a thoughtful blues and an almost theatrical dance with just a touch of flamenco, marry a near-classical formality with meat for improvisation. They're highly organised without drowning in complexity – and they are full of character. The trio responds elegantly to their diverse charms, and Muthspiel, whose rapport with Grenadier is extraordinary, is particularly expressive on classical guitar. The brilliant, sensitive Scherrer makes an ideal foil in a group whose eloquent lyricism speaks volumes about their shared pleasure in the music.