“The virtuosic performances, the open approach, the undeniable focus, and the thrall of invention all combine for an absorbing, entertaining and captivating program…”
Vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and guitarist Marnix Busstra demonstrated a kinetic relationship on their 2009 recording, Twelve Pieces (NYC Records); a compelling portrait of the musicians playing with and off each other. Its success spurred a tour and, happily, almost two hours of live recorded music.
Tone and shape are sketched by the Mainieri / Busstra Quartet’s sense of time and adventure, and it’s not surprising that the music takes on a majestic scope. The ballads are haunting and lyrical, casting a light shadow against the up-tempo material, which vivaciously escarps rock and other terrain. And while the two are the mainsprings, double-bassist Eric van der Westen and drummer Pieter Bast are consonant with Mainieri and Busstra, keeping the compositions at a high plateau.
The virtuosic performances, the open approach, the undeniable focus, and the thrall of invention all combine for an absorbing, entertaining and captivating program that kicks in with the robust “Piece.” Busstra gives the melody a short shrift before moving out to delineate a trove of lines and harmonies, over Bast’s churning undercurrent. Busstra lets his ideas saturate in open spaces as much as they do in a rapid release of notes that he bends, emphasizes, or just allows to sing. Mainieri infuses the melody with swift extrapolations that are drenched in his melodic and fertile tonality, making it one more document of his prolific presence as a distinctive stylist.
“Kannada,” a beguiling South Indian children’s song, has its soul opened on the bouzouki. Busstra is in lockstep with the melody, letting it saturate before he adds his own patterns. The groove and tempo are gently stoked deeper into the texture, before he returns to the surface. As Busstra firms the roots, Mainieri changes the trajectory with a lilting shower to open petals of myriad color. The song has been transformed, but its integrity has not been sacrificed.
Joe Zawinul’s “Young and Fine” is the only other non-original here. Mainieri manipulates movement, creating a shimmering deluge and then slowing things down to a trickle, all the while keeping a firm grasp on its concept. The evolution is complemented by Busstra, who raises the temperature, unveiling luscious intonations that he nestles against a load of chords. But the grain has been sown, and Mainieri grabs it, laying a bevy of crackling permutations as the bass growls under the seam.
What better way for a concert to end, than to have the audience ask for more, to leave indelible memories? “Square Brown / From Father to Friend” serves that purpose admirably; an assemblage of sound that is, at first, framed by the acoustic guitar, sitar, and vibraphone, which nestle in before the drums give rhythm and pulse new meaning. Rock guitar is counterpointed by the vibes and, at the end of it all, a whole range of emotions have been engagingly captured.