GOODRICK / MUTHSPIEL
If the cover of guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Mick Goodrick's new album, Live at the Jazz Standard, is somewhat ambiguous - a stark black-and-white image of an inverted New York City skyline - there is no other doubt as to the quality of the music. A little over a quarter-century since thier first meeting as teacher and student, the present release sees the venerable Goodrick and his former protege become equal partners in performing straight-ahead jazz of the highest order.
Recorded back in 2008, the succinct 45-minute set culls repertory from the Great American Songbook, more contemporary material and several co-composed originals. Following an ethereal rendition of Bill Frisell's "Throughout," Muthspiel takes an unaccompanied introduction an "All the Things You Are," revealing both the influence of his mentor and an approach all his own. Goodrick joins in seamlessly on the head, providing an idiomatic bass accompaniment that matches his counterpart stride for stride.
It's the duo's m.o. on this date to focus more on their musical kinship and tasteful arrangements than on radical breaks with form or tradition. Their versions of "Darn That Dream" and Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace," for example, are a masterclass in subtletly and poignancy. The album's three originals, "Zen," "R.E.M." and the appropriately titled "Minimal," make up a mere nine minutes of the total recording time. Rather than separate compositions, these pieces serve as freeform intros to the subsequent tunes and offer the musicians an opportunity to explore the rich sonic palette of the guitar.
There is always a danger in duo settings - especially with chordal instruments - for musicians to fill every available space, leading to a cacophony of disparate elements. This is not the case on Live, as Muthspiel and Goodrick share such a deeply intuitive connection it sounds as if there are 12 strings, four hands and one mind.
There are a few busier musicians than the Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel. In addition to his own 4tet, he has ongoing collaborations with drummer Brian Blade and with guitarists Ralph Towner and Slava Grigoryan in MGT plus any number of solo, duo and other projects to keep him on the go. His latest album sees him in duo with Berklee College's resident guitar guru Mick Goodrick, who has tempted out of academe for this collaboration at Manhattan's Jazz Standard in January 2008. It is a compelling match of two of jazz's most studied instrumentalists negotiating their way through a series of standards and originals that all share knotty harmonic problems which each musician delights in unravelling in compelling ways. Indeed, one of the most absorbing moments on the album comes on the introduction (3 mins 10 sec) to "All the Things You Are", a fantasia imagined by Muthspiel that pleasingly finds resolution with the exposition of Kern's famous theme. All in all a captivating and absorbing 45 minutes.
Cross-continental and cross-generational colleagues Wolfgang Muthspiel (Judenburg, Austria, 1965) and Mick Goodrick (Sharon, Pennsylvania, 1945) came together for a night of beauteous musical collaboration at New York's Jazz Standard in January 2008. Fortunately a tape was running. The results are captured on the guitar duo's recording Live at the Jazz Standard (Material), on which the pair play a set consisting of standards, modern works by Bill Frisell and Steve Swallow and dazzling improvisations. "Minimal", our selection, is a prime example of the latter, as Muthspiel and Goodrick bring the dynamics way down, complementing each other with exquisite sensitivity and taste, as they do throughout. sublime.
This might be easy to sideline as just a guitar buff's album, but it's subtly music enough to reach a much wider audience. Austrian guitarist Muthspiel is one of the big innovators on the instrument, joining improvisational ingenuity, world-music openness, jazz awareness and technical audacity. The veteran American Goodrick was a key figure in the early jazz-rock breakthroughs of vibraphonist Gary Burton's group, and that country-swinging Burton feel comes through here and there on this live duo recording, notably on the elegang Falling Grace. Some pieces are impressionistic and almost abstract, and Minimal builds on repeating one-note patterns growing increasingly layered and intertwined. The standard Darn that Dream and Stella by Starlight are captivating reinventions, the latter turning into a kind of whispering clamour of improvised counterpoint at the end. A lot of the music is pensive, but the set is thematically varied, improvisationally audacious, and uses a much more colorful palette than you might expect from just two guitars.
Wolfgang Muthspiel & Mick Goodrick: Live at the Jazz Standard (Material): Wielding their electric guitars with as much grace as finesse, Muthspiel and Goodrick appear to be playing independently of each other here---or so it seems on first Hearing. a closer listen, however, revels how the pair interweave melody lines and rhythmic parts equally fluently in a demonstration of just how difficult it is to play music well with other musicians and how rewarding to hear it done in such detail. This is a remarkable display of understated empathy.