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Where the River Goes

Where the River Goes

by Wolfgang MuthspielWolfgang Muthspiel


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In 2016, Austrian guitarist and composer Wolfgang Muthspiel released the widely celebrated quintet offering Rising Grace as his sophomore effort for ECM. Its meditative -- and sometimes oblique -- compositions were riven with smooth, percolating grooves and an intelligent, canny conversation among the players, thanks in no small part to the musicians recording live in the same room. Muthspiel returns to the same French studio with three of those sidemen -- pianist Brad Mehldau, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and bassist Larry Grenadier -- with Eric Harland replacing Brian Blade on drums. Just as on Rising Grace, Muthspiel penned all but one of these eight tunes, with "Blueshead" composed by Mehldau. The guitarist uses electric and acoustic instruments in tunes that reveal the conversational m.o. of this band. The opening title cut is introduced by Muthspiel's electric with sparse fingerpicking before pulsing a chord pattern to introduce Mehldau, who in turn articulates the lyric in elliptical tones. Grenadier enters, adding weight and increasing the tempo before Harland and Akinmusire approach, adding force, color, and texture as the melodic body ascends to a euphoric plateau. Muthspiel's solo winds above and through his bandmates' dialogue, framing the proceedings with scalar single-note queries and chordal accents. In "For Django," the band offers the head in unison before Mehldau and Muthspiel turn around one another in widening circles while Akinmusire finds choice moments to underscore their contrapuntal inquiries. "Clearing" is a group improv piece fueled by Harland's breaks and syncopated trap beats. The groove remains deep even as Mehldau takes it outside, pushing off from the vamp to go deeper. Akinmusire employs a rainbow of tonalities in his solo before paring the entire proceeding down for Muthspiel to carry it out. The guitarist plays solo acoustic on the lovely "Buenos Aires," a three-and-a-half-minute exercise in harmonic inquiry inside a ballad. "One Day My Prince Was Gone" is a vehicle for Akinmusire and Mehldau. The former makes use of his immense creativity and technical skills to embrace everything from New Orleans jazz to Miles' modalism to vanguard exposition in ever increasing modes of tension, while the latter and Grenadier frame his statements and the guitarist offers tight, single-string leads as ballast for the labyrinthine trumpet lines. By contrast, Mehldau's "Blueshead" is a muscular exercise in fingerpopping post-bop. All five members showcase their soloing chops. Muthspiel in particular is notable for his fleet, spidery arpeggios that swing like mad. Mehldau sits out the brief closer, "Panorama," as the guitarist and the rhythm section stretch Brazilian rhythmic interpolations to meet elements of classical and even flamenco musics. Where the River Goes is more speculative than its predecessor, but it's so kinetic in its group engagement, it doesn't feel that way. Its seemingly effortless conversation sets a new bar for this group going forward.

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Product Details

Release Date: 10/05/2018
Label: Ecm Records
UPC: 0602567517122
catalogNumber: 002885702
Rank: 104933


  1. Where the River Goes
  2. For Django
  3. Descendants
  4. Clearing
  5. Buenos Aires
  6. One Day My Prince Was Gone
  7. Blueshead
  8. Panorama

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