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Rising Grace

ECM 479 7962




  1. Rising Grace

  2. Intensive Care

  3. Triad Song

  4. Father And Sunday

  5. Wolfgang's Waltz

  6. Superonny

  7. Boogaloo

  8. Den Wheeler, Den Kenny

  9. Ending Music

  10. Oak

    Wolfgang Muthspiel - Guitar

    Ambrose Akinmusire - Trumpet

    Brad Mehldau - Piano

    Larry Grenadier - Double bass

    Brian Blade - Drums

    The Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, now in his early 50s, made his ECM debut as leader in 2014 with a trio album, Driftwood, on which his companions were Larry Grenadier and Brian Blade, both of them present on this recent release. An earlier (2013) ECM disc, Travel Guide, saw him link up with fellow guitarists Slava Grigoryan and Ralph Towner, one for the guitar connoisseur as well as for lovers of good music. He is, however, a veteran of numerous recordings, in the States as well as in Europe. Muthspiel is equally adept on electric and acoustic guitars. Here he features with a quintet, pianist Brad Mehldau and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire joining Grenadier and Blade in what is a star-studded line-up. Blade has extensive experience in both pop and jazz worlds and is known in the latter sphere for his work as a drummer with Kenny Garrett and Joshua Redman, among numerous others. Bassist Larry Grenadier is rightly lauded for his part in the success of the Brad Mehldau Trio, particularly. Mehldau himself has been, for many years now, in the leading rank of modern jazz pianists. Ambrose Akinmunire has rapidly established himself as one to follow among the new generation of trumpet stars. He has three albums as a leader to his credit, the latest being The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint (2014, for Blue Note), and over twenty as a sideman.

    Muthspiel wrote all the music for this CD, with one exception. Wolfgang's Waltz was supplied by Mehldau, no mean composer in the jazz idiom. Several tracks made an immediate impression. The opening (and title) track, Rising Grace, just flows. Muthspiel's gentle, rippling notes, Akinmusire's melancholy trumpet sound, Mehldau's accustomed sensitivity and the alert contribution of Grenadier and Blade, all combine to produce a thing of beauty. The same can be said of the gentle-on-the-ear Triad Song. It wouldn't be an overstatement to describe Mehldau's Wolfgang's Waltz as magisterial, so potent is the way the ensemble combine. As for Oak, a strong melody is enhanced by Muthspiel's charm and grace on guitar and Akinmusire at his most Wheeleresque. Speaking of the late, great Kenny, there is a fine tribute on the disc to the trumpet and flugelhorn maestro, Den Wheeler, Den Kenny. The title translates roughly as 'This is Kenny Wheeler as I remenber him'. The group's performance helps ensure that we won't forget with Akinmusire fittingly well to the fore. Intensive Care is pensive and meandering. Muthspiel's touch conveys genuine depth of feeling. His guitar style on Father And Sun (sic) with its melodic texture put me in mind of Bill Frisell.

    You'll gather from this selection of (edited) highlights that I was impressed (though I'm not sure why Ending Music needed to be so tantalisingly brief). This assembly of talent has resulted in a chamber jazz group of distinction. There is so much to admire here that it seems invidious to single out Ambrose Akinmusire for special mention. There are occasional echoes in his playing of the young Terence Blanchard, or further back still, Clifford Brown and, of course, Miles. Perhaps it's lazy on my part to try and pigeon-hole him. Suffice to say, his reflective, brooding, understated but totally effective contribution was one of the joys of hearing this admirable CD.

    James Poore


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