Austrian-born jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel invariably gives the first impression of a phenomenally understated musician. He rarely raises the voice of his instrument above a normal conversational tone. It's a brilliant gambit; by keeping his cool, he draws the listener in. Now you're in Muthspiel's territory, and you have about two minutes before your jazz sensibilities are in the palm of his hand.
Such is the case on the opening track of his acclaimed 2006 album, Bright Side. On "Etude #2," Muthspiel's classical training gives his staccato riffs a balletic kinesis. The whole arrangement, fleshed out here by his sensitive drummer and bassist, shows a sense of creative order normally reserved for fine choreographers and architects.
Muthspiel, a graduate of Boston's Berklee School of Music, composes with a mastery of space (and negative space), patient and confident timing, and a wild, colorful, melodic imagination. On Friendly Travelers, released earlier this year, the guitarist joins supersharp jazz drummer Brian Blade on a session that showcases some of the best rhythmic improvisations to date by these two unerringly dynamic players.