Saturday, February 4, 2017

James Muller - 2006 "Kaboom"

Australian guitarist JamesMuller makes a potentstatement on his fourth release as a leader, originally issued in 2006 and recently re-pressed. Recorded in New York with drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Matt Penman, Kaboom showcases Muller’s startling six-string facility and fresh compositional style. Highlights include the swinging title track; the edgy “D Blues,” full of daring intervallic leaps and rapid-fire single-note streams; and Muller’s soulful and swinging tribute tune “Chick Corea,” on which he burns up the fretboard yet again. Muller closes with a straight reading of “All the Things You Are” that has him blowing over the bar line with jaw-dropping abandon. For sheer speed, spotless articulation and fertile ideas, Muller ranks right up there with fellow Aussie chopsmeister Frank Gambale.

Geography is the only reason that James Muller isn't as well-known as he should be. Having spent most of his life in his native Australia, the guitarist, now in his early thirties, has racked up a significant number of releases including Sonic Fiction's Changing With the Times, pianist Mark Isaac's Closer and the recent JazzGroove Mothership Orchestra's The Mothership Plays the Music of Mike Nock. Fusion fans may know him for his recent work with drummer Chad Wackerman. Every project seems to reveal another side to this virtuosic player, begging the question: will the real James Muller please stand up?
Kaboom, Muller's fourth album as a leader, comes from a session recorded during time spent in New York. He may be the sum of his influences, but his own voice emerges on this set of five self-penned tunes, plus two by fellow Aussie Sean Wayland and one standard. Muller eschews the heavily overdriven tone he used with Wackerman for a cleaner and occasionally chorused tone that's still got plenty of bite. Bassist Matt Penman and drummer Bill Stewart round out a trio rooted in the mainstream, but still filled with plenty of surprises.
Muller's chordal approach resembles John Scofield's, though he's less blues-informed. He communicates a hint of folksiness at times that references Pat Metheny, but he avoids any of the guitar icon's signatures, though his solo style is equally focused. The occasional descending legato run suggests Allan Holdsworth, but he's less abstruse in nature and isn't averse to letting his guitar sound like a guitar.
The charts are primarily solo vehicles, but they're memorable, despite their brevity. There's plenty of room to stretch, but Muller's innate sense of construction never loses sight of the bigger picture. Peppering linear phrases with attractive chordal voicings, Muller creates tension by taking things ever so slightly outside, but never at the expense of melodic development; this quality is shared by Stewart, one of today's most distinctly musical drummers.
The trio swings hard on "D Blues," evokes bittersweet melancholy on the balladic "Eindhoven" and burns brightly on the fiery "Chick Corea." There's plenty of energy, but despite Muller's pungent tone, the overall vibe is more about smooth surfaces than sharp edges. While there's underlying form, there's also a strong simpatico that lets the trio take enough chances to keep listeners on their toes.
With the number of guitarists flooding the jazz scene these days, it's hard to stand out, but Muller does just that on Kaboom, further evidence of a vibrant Australian scene that's still waiting to be discovered by an international audience.

2012 Re-press. Australian guitarist James Muller have been always spoken in musician circles highly praised by John Scofield, Chad Wackerman and others. On this brand new release he teams up with Scofield bandmate Bill Stewart on drums and Matt Penman on bass. Kaboom has five of James' compositions, two by Sean Wayland and one standard by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Recorded in NYC it's a absolute blinder - listen to it and you'll see why John Scofield rates James as one of THE top players.

Really great compositions and inspired playing by everyone. I can't recommend this enough. You will not be disappointed. Muller is a monster guitarist, and Bill Stewart is his usual awesome self.

I find this CD from Australian guitarist James Muller to be a refreshing listen. Influences of early Metheny and Scofield are in the playing but he has his own style. Matt Penman is on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Both have played with Scofield.My CD comes with a sticker recommendation from John Scofield. I quote "This is a great album.James has it all....I love his playing."
James Muller can also be heard on CDs by the Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band and the Subterraneans.

Track Listing:

01 Honeycombs;
02 Kaboom;
03 Stacked;
04 D Blues;
05 Eindhoven;
06 Chick Corea;
07 Marcello;
08 All the Things You Are.


James Muller: guitar;
Matt Penman: bass;
Bill Stewart: drums.