Jazz Inside Magazine – Cathy Gruenfelder

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“Twelve Pieces is a hit, and I look forward to twelve more!”

The partnership between these two incredible voices in improvisational music began a few years ago when Mainieri made a cameo on Busstra’s CD It’s All in the Mind. Soon after, Mainieri joined Busstra on a few tours – one with his electric band “Second Vision,” and also with his acoustic trio. Getting to know each other’s musical personas in these different contexts proved to be a valuable investment, as is evidenced on their diverse album 12 Pieces.

The CD opens with a very romantic and sensual tune entitled “Old Fashion.” For the melody section of the composition, Busstra plays an electric sitar that emits a gorgeous blossoming tone. The feel of the piece is Bossa Nova meets Tango. Mainieri takes a minimalist role as accompanist, but plays all of the right notes in all of the right spots. These two are masters of a ballad. Busstra switches to a nylon string guitar for his solo.

The second track, “Don’t Break Step” begins with a simple four chord vamp between an acoustic rhythm guitar, bass, and drums as Busstra goes right into an improvisation on his electric axe with a tone and style reminiscent of John Scofield. After twenty seconds or so he lands on the short head of the tune as Mainieri doubles him on vibes. It is a quirky little number that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun to blow over. Within the first ten minutes of the CD, Mainieri and Busstra go from ultra emotional to extremely funky.

“Lost in little Spain” is another memorable track. Busstra creates a sustaining harmonic backdrop with his electric sitar that sets the mood for the entire track. The melody is unsettling but feels really good to listen to – it is exotic and inviting and when Busstra begins his guitar solo you can’t help but nod your head and smile. He takes quite a magic carpet ride. Mainieri takes a different approach – he begins his solo with one note that he lets ring for five seconds – something that works very well with vibes. It seems to say, “Listen carefully.” He then takes us on a more subtle adventure, building on his ideas in beautiful ways as the song fades out.

“Piece” begins with Mainieri by himself. Something about his left hand makes the attack so soft that it sounds like a keyboard of some sort. He is able to be soft with one hand and hard with the other at the same time. The unique bass line of this tune could work in a “drum and bass” techno song, a reggae song, or as it is used in this unclassifiable composition.

“Its Done” is another beautiful ballad and the group is, as usual, consistent in their search and commitment to being completely in service to the tune. This music transcends the petty elements of being human – it brings us to the core. It is simple, stripped down, not at all fancy, but incredibly deep!

“Square Brow” starts with a simple acousticrock style rhythm guitar vamp but the way Busstra’s melody line fits into the rhythm is ingenious. This is one of multiple instances on the records where the sum of two parts is much more than one plus one. The simple ideas put together can make for something very profound. Mainieri really gets a chance to blow on this one, going at it full force and with fire and making use of some exotics harmonies.

“Where Am I?” is the most cinematic and ‘free’ piece on the album and the answer is in the imagination of the listener. The musicians use their instruments to create an aural movie. It is free of meter or key.

“Kannada” is the folk song of the disc, beginning with the melody being sung by children from the Southern Indian state of Karnataka in their native language. It is a very simple and timeless melody that can stick in your head for decades. Mainieri and bassist Eric van der Westen only play on the downbeat of each measure and drummer Pieter Bast uses simple hand percussion. It could be from Africa, Europe, Asia or South America – it has that universal quality.

“Mikes Piece” is a 45 second solo rendition by Mainieri that sounds like it’s being played far off in the universe by some otherwordly being – his touch and tone are heavenly.

For “Old Men’s Home” Busstra begins with a slow and simple melody line that is played with plenty of funk and rhythmic playfulness. The band follows suit. Mainieri enters after two minutes to take the baton and offer his own quirky solo – very simple, motivic, and intense! Both of these white boys bring the funk and rhythmic acuity.

“The Same New Story” is a good title for the final tune. After eleven new stories, that’s what it is. It features a slightly Latin tinged drum beat that accentuates the “& of 2” and Busstra’s acoustic guitar playing is playful, adventurous and rhythmically interesting as usual.

The group you hear on this album and the compositions they play through are world-class. This music feels good to listen to. It will put a smile on your face and stick in your head. This is music for music’s sake and you can hear that they are coming from a deep and humble place, even when they have fun, which they often do. Twelve Pieces is a hit, and I look forward to twelve more!