Sea of tranquility – John Neudorf

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(****) “… a wide range of moods, tones and textures and the musicianship is stellar.”

Marnix Busstra is a Dutch guitarist/composer with a new album titled Firm Fragile Fun. Busstra (guitar, bouzouki, electric sitar) has an outstanding band including Rembrandt Frerichs (piano), Arnold Dooyeweerd (double bass) and Pieter Bast (drums).

The album consists of eleven tracks, all one word titles which were conceived in an interesting way. Busstra sought the help of his friends in describing each song, summing up the experience and feeling the songs invoked in a single word. For the most part these titles are spot on. The album opening “Stress” begins the disc in frantic fashion as the guitar sets the pace, slowing down and gaining speed with fast little leads and bursts of stabbing intensity. The bouzouki is used throughout giving the tune a bit of ragtime nostalgia. In “Fun” the off kilter piano motifs and the varying guitar tones ranging from slow and languid to more biting leads give the tune a definite quirkiness while “Firm” features sizzling fusion style guitar leads and complex drum patterns. With “Mild” the sound is mellower with a swinging groove and tasteful piano and in the exuberant sounding “Joy” the melody is totally uplifting giving the feel of youthful playfulness. The bouzouki is an important element here. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the ominous sounding “Deep” with huge bass notes and an overall darker atmosphere due in large part to the unusual piano chords. There is certainly a feeling of uneasiness and tension in this track.

While the song titles are simple the music is certainly not with a wide range of moods, tones and textures and the musicianship is stellar. For fans of jazz and fusion Firm Fragile Fun should be a most welcome listen. Highly recommended.