Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, famous for his dry 1990s observation “I didn’t play with Miles”, studied classical and jazz guitar at Graz Academy, and emigrated to the US in 1986 to study at New England Conservatory.
While at Berklee School of Music he met Gary Burton, who invited him to join his quintet. His ECM debut as leader was Driftwood, which explored the rich sonic qualities of the guitar, both electric and acoustic. That same concern – particularly for acoustic guitar – is found on the present album. Muthspiel also writes for contemporary classical ensembles.
Dance Of The Elders is an album with one superb track, and others that don’t quite match it. I’ve been playing the opening Invocation, haunting and spacious, quite obsessively. The album is slow and stately. The guitarist’s writing and approach to jazz is inspired by both folk and classical forms, and there’s compelling interplay between the trio members.
Prelude To Bach is a spontaneous improvisation on Bach’s chorale “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”, while two other tracks are covers. The Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht Liebeslied is a jazz waltz; Amelia is a folk-jazz hymn by Joni Mitchell, dedicated to aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. The result is rather understated for my taste – probably not Muthspiel’s finest album, though an interesting addition to his discography.
Invocation; Prelude To Bach; Dance Of The Elders; Liebeslied; Folksong; Cantus Bradus; Amelia (45.32)
Muthspiel (g); Scott Colley (b); Brian Blade (d). Oakland, California, February 2022.
ECM Records 5571798