MUSHY WIDMAIER - MY WORLD | Revisiting The
2006 - The
latest release from pianist Mushy Widmaier, almost
twenty years after the highly acclaimed "Kote
ou" (Mushi & Lakansyel), offers a journey
to the Arrawak World. With no surprise, this CD
confirms again that Mushy is a skillful and highly
advanced pianist and a talented arranger. This project
reunites the upper crust of Haitian musicians and
for his second release, after more than 22 years,
Mushy Widmaier demonstrates deep skills at musical
CD opens with the "Dance of the Arrawaks":
a tribute to the former inhabitants of Haiti Quysqueya.
The melody of this piece is articulated into joyful
phrases. The pianist, for his solo, uses harmonic
structures supported by a series of dissonant chords
(active left hand) that make the piece sounds dramatic
and very interesting. The incorporation of one of
our folk song "Men yo", hummed in unison
at the closure of the piece, is well done. There
are many good pieces on this album. To name a few,
Ayizan, Malouk, Ti Djo and Oye-o are to be considered
new icons in the pianist's repertoire.
could make a review of each single piece on this
CD and dissect them section by section, but the
exercise would be useless. The reader can easily
discover that by listening to the CD. Although the
pieces on the album exhibit real craftsmanship,
"My World" did not meet my expectations.
I am under the impression that the pianist is still
looking for his own "language". One oddity
on this album is the omnipresence of the synthesizer.
Indeed Mushy has developed the killing habit (in
my opinion) of inserting the cold electric sound
of the synthesizer everywhere. Perhaps it is because
he still carries the Pat Metheny Group (PMG) influence
in his sleeves (hard to believe after 22 years).
The choir lines on "Dance of the Arrawak"
renders that Brazilian flavor so typical of PMG.
The release of "Kote ou?", in 1983, (Reissued
by Crossover Record in 1996) paradoxically introduced
many listeners to the music of the PMG.
better understand my point, I think it is important
to revisit history a bit. "The influence of
electric sound has reached its apogee in the history
of jazz music in the 70's. With rock and soul appealing
to a younger generation, jazz musicians were torn
between following conventional approaches to their
music and pursuing the avant-garde. Miles Davis
(again!) chose another direction, one that incorporated
the influences of rock and soul music as well as
modal and contemporary approaches to jazz. This
music became known as fusion. with revolutionary
"super groups" led by Wayne Shorter and
Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Chick Corea (Return
To Forever), John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra),
Herbie Hancock, and Michael Brecker (Brecker Brothers).
By no coincidence, most of the leaders of the fusion
movement had spent time in the '60s or '70s Miles
Davis groups. For the reader's information, all
these musicians have their own distinctive styles.
During these years, fusion became increasingly innovative
and adventurous, melding the wild energy of rock
guitarist Jimi Hendrix with the advanced technical
proficiency of the most evolved jazz musicians.
Fusion often incorporated elements of world music
- Latin, African, Indian, and Caribbean influences.
The fusion style with its very accessible rock-oriented
textures gained widespread popularity but declined
by the end of the decade. In its place rose a somewhat
less aggressive form of electric music called "contemporary"
jazz, as well as the "neo-classic" period
of the 1980s." Miles Davis' huge influence
upon a whole generation of musicians is a brilliant
illustration on how positive and rewarding musical
influences can be. Many prominent musicians in jazz
tend to converge toward a more acoustic and avant-garde
sound as they grow in terms of musical experience
and language/style development. Acoustic sound seems
to be the common vector to convey such an experience.
Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Hendrix, Sonny
Sharrock, Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, to name a few,
are unique folks in their categories. They have
developed their own identity through the study of
previous master's works and exploration of cutting-edge
electric sound. Such a prowess does not happen overnight
and producing in the shadow of your major influences
might not drive to this distinctive language that
emerges from rich and diverse musical experiences.
CD could be classified in the contemporary jazz
period. Nowadays, musicians have at their disposal
a humungous amount of materials to work on. These
resources are incessantly revisited by young jazz
prodigies. Consequently, innovation is more difficult
to achieve, since everybody has access to the same
information and most young jazz players exhibit
talents and astonished virtuosity in the execution
of the standards. The value of a jazz piece, in
my opinion, should lay more upon the distinctive
and original approach of the composer/interpreter
than the technical virtuosity applied in rendering
such a piece. There's been decade of controversies
and acid criticisms on the music perception of the
"neo-classics" who advocate a flawless
mastery of the forms. Their detractors always emphasize
on the coldness of their too-much-perfect-music.
a listener, my judgment of this CD is based on a
triangular approach. I looked at:
1. The uniqueness and originality of the
(distinctive musical touch/personality of the musician)
2. The cleverness of the conception. (The
idea that drives the album)
3. The technical accomplishment. (Talent
as a musician)
CD "My world" exhibits strength on the
last two criteria; but the first requirement of
this trilogy is missing. It is in reality an intrusion
into somebody else's world. The jazz musician must
be able to incessantly extend his/her musical skills
and reinvent himself (herself) every day. The mere
fact of reaching technical ability does not suffice.
The ultimate goal is not only to master the form,
but to deeply touch the soul of the listener through
a very distinctive style. Mushy has still to find
his own voice in this musical intricacy he seems
to affectionate so much. As Keith Jarret put it
so well:" It is not only about playing right,
it is about the rightness of the music".
It is worth to buy this CD. Mushy Widmaier is one
of our most valuable Jazz Icon. I like to keep track
of my folks' progress. I somewhat hope for some
future project on acoustic piano exclusively.
Alphonse Piard, Jr.
September 6, 2006