The Hotchkiss Concert Series is pleased to present the Michael Musillami Trio +2 on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in Katherine M. Elfers Hall, Esther Eastman Music Center. The group will perform new original music composed by Michael Musillami. The Michael Musillami Trio + 2 augments Musillami's long-standing core trio, featuring bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, with the addition of Jason Robinson on saxophones and flute, and Thomas Heberer on the trumpet. The concert is free and open to the public.
"His 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, CT, throughout the 1980s.
Over his 30-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."
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."
The Hotchkiss School
Founded in 1891, The Hotchkiss School is a coeducational boarding school located at 11 Interlaken Road in Lakeville, Connecticut. Katherine M. Elfers Hall, Esther Eastman Music Center is situated in the lower level of the Main Building. For more information about this and other arts events at The Hotchkiss School call 860-435-4423.