Wolfgang Muthspiel, whom The New Yorker has called “a shining light” among today’s jazz guitarists, returns to the trio format with Angular Blues.
Angular Blues is Wolfgang Muthspiel’s fourth ECM album as a leader, following two acclaimed quintet releases and his trio debut. Like Driftwood – the 2014 trio disc that JazzTimes dubbed “cinematic” and “haunting” – Angular Blues finds the Austrian guitarist paired with long-time collaborator Brian Blade on drums; but instead of Larry Grenadier on bass, this time it’s Scott Colley, whose especially earthy sound helps imbue this trio with its own dynamic. Muthspiel plays acoustic guitar on three of the album’s tracks and electric on six more. Along with his characteristically melodic originals – including such highlights as the bucolic “Hüttengriffe” and pensive “Camino” – he essays the first standards of his ECM tenure (“Everything I Love” and “I’ll Remember April”), as well as his first-ever bebop rhythm-changes tune on record (“Ride”). Angular Blues also features a single guitar-only track, “Solo Kanon in 5/4,” with Muthspiel’s electronic delay imbuing the baroque-like rounds with a hypnotic glow.
About his first-time inclusion of jazz standards on one of his ECM albums, Muthspiel says: “I was inspired to record standards with this trio because everything about the way the group plays feels so free, open and far from preconceived ideas, but at the crucial moment a jazz language is spoken, what we do does justice to these tunes. I learned ‘Everything I Love,’ the Cole Porter song, from an early Keith Jarrett album, and I first came to know ‘I’ll Remember April’ from a Frank Sinatra recording. In that latter song, I hardly play solo. It’s more about the head and the vamp-like atmosphere that prevails from the start and is savored again in the end. As in many moments with this trio, it’s about playing with space: leaving it, creating it, filling it.