Free of charge and open to the public, the Amherst College Department of Music presents a special jazz concert by the Michael Musillami Trio +2, featuring Musillami (guitar, compositions), Joe Fonda (bass), George Schuller (drums), Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Jason Robinson (saxophones, alto flute) at 7 p.m. in Room 3 of Arms Music Center. The group will perform new original music from their 2018 release Life Anthem (Playscape), as well as new music for their forthcoming 2019 release Little Ruby Steps.
“[O]ne of the most stimulating contemporary sets I’ve heard in a long time.”
--Nick Jones, Jazz Journal magazine
“Michael Musillami's music is a treasure, and we are fortunate that he came through his recent crisis unscathed.”
--Tim Niland, Jazz and Blues blog
“It's one of the year's best recordings.”
--Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz
About Life Anthem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAM_tBL4Vkg
Michael Musillami's "compositions develop in leisurely style from quiet simplicity to intricate complexity," writes Jack Massarik in Jazzwise, "and the ensemble playing is civilized, sophisticated and clean." The Boston Phoenix's Jon Garelick adds, "Musillami sounds familiar—this is swinging jazz guitar, after all—but not quite like anyone else." Born and raised in California, Musillami studied with renowned guitarist Joe Diorio before moving to the east coast in the early 1980s, working primarily in organ trios led by Richard "Groove" Holmes and Bobby Buster, among others. In addition to paying his dues by sharing the stage with Junior Cook, Dewey Redman and Curtis Fuller, Musillami became part of the circle of musicians connected to the Hillside Club in Waterbury, Conn., throughout the 1980s.
Over his 40-year career, Musillami has led a variety of ensembles, releasing 19 CDs and touring throughout North America, Canada and Europe. Along with his longstanding flagship trio with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, he has earned critical notice as the leader of groups ranging from duo to octet, featuring such prominent collaborators as Mark Feldman, Cameron Brown, Drew Gress, Michael Sarin and Matt Wilson. In 1999, Musillami founded Playscape Recordings to give himself more control over his recording career and support other musicians. Built around a cadre of frequent collaborators, the label has garnered extensive critical praise and a catalog of more than 70 diverse releases. "Like Blue Note or CTI in their prime," writes Signal to Noise reviewer John Chacona, "Michael Musillami's Playscape label has a signature sound." When not working with his own bands or managing his record label, Musillami also writes for and directs the 28-piece jazz ensemble Right Brain Logic at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. Learn more at www.michaelmusillami.com and www.playscape-recordings.com.
Michael Musillami Trio
"Working on an almost telepathic level," writes Troy Collins, "they have developed an innate familiarity with each other that enables them to second guess abrupt tempo changes and harmonic detours with split-second timing." "Musillami's trio, his alliance with his longtime friends and collaborators, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, is a superb, finely tuned unit, empathetic, swinging and dramatically expressive of emotions sweeping from joy to sadness," says Owen McNally of the Hartford Courant in his recent feature article. "More impressive than longevity, however, is the trio's remarkably tight, cohesive unity. Nurtured by Musillami's celebratory music, the band functions as a musical family, a democratic clan in which everyone expresses himself." Critics have called the group's music "truly original" (Michael G. Nastos, AllMusic.com), "challenging and adventurous" (Bill Beuttler, Boston Globe), "scintillating and provocative" (Bill Milkowski, The Absolute Sound) and "honest, frequently surprising and consistently exciting" (Ron Wynn, JazzTimes). "Working on an almost telepathic level," adds Cadence reviewer Troy Collins, "they have developed an innate familiarity with each other that enables them to second guess abrupt tempo changes and harmonic detours with split second timing. Although the trio certainly doesn't need any help navigating Musillami's compelling tunes, they are occasionally joined by a few guest soloists, always to remarkable effect."
Joe Fonda is a composer, bassist, recording artist, interdisciplinary performer, producer and educator. An accomplished international jazz artist, Fonda has performed with his own ensembles throughout the United States, Canada , Europe and Asia. He has collaborated and performed with such artists as Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Ken McIntyre, Lou Donaldson, Bill and Kenny Barron, Leo Smith, Perry Robinson, Dave Douglas, Curtis Fuller, Bill Dixon, Han Bennink, Bobby Naughton, Xu Fengia, Randy Weston, Gebhard Ullmann, Carla Bley, Carlo Zingaro, Barry Altschul and Billy Bang.
A native of New York City, drummer and composer George Schuller moved to Boston in 1967, where he was raised and educated, and later received a bachelor's degree in jazz performance at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1982. For the next 12 years, Schuller was a fixture on the Boston area jazz scene, performing with Herb Pomeroy, Jaki Byard, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Mick Goodrick, John Lockwood, Ran Blake, Lisa Thorson, Billy Pierce, Bruce Gertz, Mili Bermejo, John LaPorta, Dominique Eade and Hal Crook. Schuller presently resides in Brooklyn and freelances in the New York City area, performing with Ballin' The Jack, Michael Musillami, Burton Greene, Armen Donelian, Morena/Fonda Trio, Seunghee Han, Whirrr! (Music of Jimmy Giuffre), Russ Johnson's Out To Lunch (Music of Eric Dolphy), Yard Byard (Music of Jaki Byard) and Conference Call, in addition to leading his own groups Circle Wide and George Schuller Trio.
Cornetist and composer Kirk Knuffke is the winner of Downbeat Magazine's "Rising Star" critics poll for 2015. A recipient of the Jerome Foundation composers grant, Kirk has released 15 recordings as a leader or co-leader. "One of modern jazz's most skilled navigators of the divide between inside and outside, freedom and swing," he has "full command of his most demanding instrument" – All About Jazz. Kirk placed in the top five in the world in the El Intruso critics poll and was one of six nominees for Trumpeter of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Knuffke has been based in New York City since 2005. Shortly after his arrival, Knuffke began playing with Butch Morris. Their friendship resulted in four recordings and several European tours. Kirk joined the celebrated Matt Wilson Quartet in 2009, recording "Gathering Call" (Palmetto) featuring John Medeski and touring each year. 2016 brought Matt Wilson's "Beginning of a memory" Palmetto, which received five stars in Downbeat. Michael Formanek's "The Distance" ECM was also awarded 5 stars this year. Knuffke also plays in "Sifter" with Mary Halvorson and Wilson, Ideal Bread, Allison Miller's "Boom Tic Boom," Todd Sickafoose's "Tiny Resistors" and groups led by Ray Anderson, Uri Caine, Mark Helias, Bill Goodwin, Karl Berger and Ted Brown, to name a few. "Arm and Hands," a recent release, garnered praise from every major jazz publication. The Following CDs Little Cross (Steeplechase Records) and Lamplighter (Fresh Sound Records) have also received much praise. Kirk has had feature articles in Downbeat Magazine, Jazz Times, Germany's Sonic and Denmark's JazzSpecial, among others.
The music of American saxophonist and scholar Jason Robinson ("rugged and scintillating," New York Times) thrives in the fertile overlaps between improvisation and composition, acoustic music and electronics, tradition and experimentalism. Initially a devotee of post-1960s jazz and creative music, Robinson is celebrated for bringing together various historical directions in jazz-- bebop, post-bop, the avant-garde --with an improvisatory and compositional sensibility drawn from and extending the languages of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Lester Young. His musical interests, however, span far and wide. He is a critically acclaimed distinctive voice in a new generation of creative musicians in equal dialogue with jazz, popular music, experimental music and electronic music. Robinson's primary group is his New York-based Janus Ensemble, which ranges in size from a quintet with reedist Marty Ehrlich, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Drew Gress and drummer George Schuller, to the full nine-piece version of the group with the addition of reedist JD Parran, trombonist and tubist Bill Lowe, tubist Marcus Rojas, and drummer Ches Smith. The group's latest release is Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform, 2012).