Wolfgang Muthspiel - Where The River Goes

Label: ECM Records, 2018

Personnel - Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitar; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Eric Harland: drums.


In order to address a new set of never-recorded compositions, Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel reenlists the same American musicians who had brought Rising Grace, his previous album, to life. The guitarist builds up Where The River Goes as a natural follow-up to its predecessor but offering new experiences with each tune, a fruit of his deep musical sensibility.

Pensive guitar expressions introduce the title track right before they are turned into systematic chordal fluxes accompanied with gentle single-note delineations from pianist Brad Mehldau. The lyric vein inspires the soloists - fabulous trumpet player Ambrose Akinmusire sounds sharp and candid; Muthspiel brings some folk influence into the jazz linguistic domain; and Mehldau, invariably conveying interesting ideas, outlines precise phrases articulated with gusto.

The title “For Django” (supposedly penned for guitarist Django Reinhardt) should make us think about some sort of swinging treatment, which doesn’t happen. Instead, the piece feels more thoughtful than precipitous, becoming immersed in a dignified solemnity that never darkens. This lightness in mood is effectively corroborated by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland, who restrain from pushing too far, and reinforced through a passage that promotes end-to-end communication between piano and guitar. Akinmusire justifies the constant calls from his fellow musicians, pulling off soaring solos that nobody else can match. Afterward, he lays down the melody of “Descendants” with lingering notes and fine focus. Although the piece starts nostalgically crystalline, seeking a certain amount of ambiguity and actually getting it with the contribution of slightly dissonant bends from the bandleader, it ends up being shaken by an intense rhythmic passage.

After “Clearing”, a complete spontaneous creation that touches modern classical and cyclical minimalism, it's time for the acoustic glow of “Buenos Aires”, a solo guitar portrait of the Argentinean capital.

The initially ruminative “One Day My Prince Was Gone” enjoys the exploratory freedom for a while, before exhibiting unison lines over a swinging rhythm. This ultimate thrill anticipates Mehldau’s “Blueshead”, which stands up for bop-derived melodies and solos containing abundant call-response interaction.

Muthspiel returns to the acoustic guitar introspection on the closing piece, “Panorama”, decompressing through amiable chromatic shifts within the arpeggiated movements.

The quintet, united by a strong rapport, adopts this uniform, exquisite approach to Muthspiel’s writing, creating a catchy narrative that incorporates both warm and glacial developments.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Where The River Goes ► 04 - Clearing ► 07 - Blueshead