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Drumfree
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Christian Muthspiel's Yodel Group
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Wolfgang Muthspiel
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Muthspiel & Muthspiel
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Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio
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Wolfgang Muthspiel 4tet
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Bakken & Muthspiel
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beefolk
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Duo Blade & Muthspiel
  Chris Parker's Review
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GLOW
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Goodrick / Muthspiel
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MGT - Wolfgang Muthspiel, Slava Grigoryan & Ralph Towner
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Lisette Spinnler
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Triology & Muthspiel
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duo blade & muthspiel

JAZZTIMES – May 2007

Serendipity is an amazing thing. We wouldn’t have this album but for a chance meeting between the Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel and the American drummer Brian Blade at the 2006 Baltic Jazz Festival. The two had worked together before, but had these guys not met up again last year, this art wouldn’t exist, and we would be the poorer for it.

Friendly Travelers is a moody, dense piece of work. It often sounds as though two or three guitars are conversing with the drums, but that’s the trick. Muthspiel used two loop machines and also did a little overdubbing in the studio. He’s got a gorgeous touch – very patient with his constructions – and his guitar is miked so well you can almost hear individual threads of nylon vibrate. Blade is his usually dynamic, restless self, yet he never overwhelms his compatriot.

“Gnadenwald”, named for a village in Austria, builds like a movie soundtrack, with Muthspiel’s own guitar samples spurring his playing to a higher level. Blade’s soft attack on the cymbals and drums grows stormier as the minutes go by, and Muthspiel ultimately adds distortion to his palette. “Youssou”, an African-rhythmic tribute to the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour, puts a short drum pattern on a loop, over which Blade adds a layer of live drumming. For the title track, Blade steps away from the kit and picks up his own guitar, and the two enjoy a calm conversation of the strings. “Heavy song” perks up after a couple of ballads. A looped guitar phrase creates a fine groove; the guitarist solos over three repeated chords, and the drummer places sharp accents in unexpected places.

Mark F. Turner, all-about-jazz 2007

A confluence of two creative minds merges into an inspiring work on Friendly Travelers. From Austria comes guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, who has garnered international praise in both classical and jazz music including his critically acclaimed Bright Side (2006 Material Records.) Joining him is Brian Blade, who is among jazz’s top drummers: leader of Brian Blade Fellowship, member of the recent Wayne Shorter Quartet, and diverse credits with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and many others. The two have performed together in the past but now offer something new and exciting on this duo collaboration.

What appears as a simple drum/guitar duo is transformed into a listening experience that is enhanced by the musicians’ skill and connectivity. Muthspiel enhances his quick and nimble playing with live sampling, loops, and a variety of guitar textures: acoustic, electric, and even synthesized-bass. Blade colors the music with his signature kit traps flowing with and against the music; perfectly timed, spoken with intricate solos and accents.

 

These improvised dialogues are girded with melody and harmony. The first piece has an expansive and bucolic feel with Pat Metheny-like chord changes and voice. It’s clear that this is unique as Muthspiel weaves in the bass pattern and his solo takes flight with a clean then distortion tone as Blade provides the rhythmic drive. The free groove “End of 4” swings, digs in, and then morphs into a free-for-all where both artists cut loose. “Youssou” is another favorite where the guitar is looped and the duo provides the spirit of dance inspired by Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour.

There are poignant tunes like the title track (featuring Blade playing acoustic guitar) and ones that rock-hard like “Andrej Rubljow” with its aptly placed guitar loop. Each lands on opposite ends of the spectrum but is equally memorable. The recording closes with “Cold Summer” and “The Tuning of the Bells,” stirring pieces of exploration, ingenuity, and a common bond between two prime musicians.

A review by Chris Parker

Ask any Vortex regular to identify his or her favourite gig at the club, and the chances are that many will cite an evening at the old Vortex when guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel joined forces with Marc Johnson and Brian Blade to produce two sets of sublime music. Since then Muthspiel has revisited the club with the Pichler twins and re-created the magic; on this album he and drummer Brian Blade interweave, strike sparks off each other and generally behave in accordance with the CD's title. Muthspiel is capable of producing both filigree delicacy (particularly on the acoustic instrument) and viscerally affecting rock-based energy, and in Blade he has the perfect partner, always probing, shuffling, embellishing, but somehow never relaxing the tension his taut alertness builds into these eleven duo pieces.

They range from the infectiously rolling opener 'Gnadenwald' (which employs loops to layer its attractive, slow-building sound), through spontaneous improvisations where the duo's communication is almost telepathic, to more pre-structured material employing riffs and themes on which Muthspiel takes off, building solos of gripping intensity over Blade's surging, rolling drums. Ending with a haunting piece, 'The Tuning of the Bells', which Muthspiel himself accurately describes as an 'exploration in sound', this album is at once virtuosic and musicianly and compulsively playable ­ an early strong front runner in the album of the year stakes.