LIVE AT WIZARD TONE
Having been party to exceptional live recordings by the Steve Hunter Band and the Subterraneans among others, Australia’s slipperiest jazz guitarist, James Muller, here makes a live one of his own, telling us in the liner notes that, despite all the sessions, he’s never been a comfortable studio animal. Certainly his most incendiary playing has occurred in concert, but I also have a sneaking suspicion that he attains his ultimate incandescence when not bearing responsibility for leading the band.
For this album Muller shipped an audience into an Adelaide studio to combine the live buzz with audio precision. His colleagues are New York-based alto saxophonist Will Vinson, bassist Sam Anning and drummer Ben Vanderwal, with whom Muller feels an urge to unleash his inner bebopper: Monk’s Evidence and Bird’s Scrapple from the Apple nestle in a repertoire fleshed out with Tristano, Kern and three of his own tunes. The guitarist opts to keep his sound clean and singing, where I’ve always like it when he flirts with a little dirt and danger. Did he capture the uninhibited performances he sought? Not entirely, but he did lay down a convincing straight-ahead jazz album. JOHN SHAND