Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eric Muhler Quartet: The Jury Is Out

Slow Turn Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.1.10
Buy CD: The Jury Is Out

Pianist Eric Muhler began taking lessons at age 6, led a rock band at 12, and continued to perform in that genre for another decade.

It was tough going; he worked side jobs to make ends meet until the late 1980s, when he got married. He loved parenting; because his wife had a highly paid job, Muhler became a stay-at-home dad and essentially dropped out of the music business until their children became teens.

When Muhler returned to the biz, he abandoned rock and developed a style of straight-ahead jazz., playing his own compositions and arrangements. This album presents his newest group — a quartet — that consists of Michael Wilcox (electric bass), Brian Andres (drums), Sheldon Brown (tenor and soprano saxes) and Muhler himself on acoustic piano.

The quartet has a “big” sound; the combination of a standard piano and an electric bass delivers a much richer background than the electric keyboard/acoustic bass approach used so often today. Brown's sax work — particularly on tenor — also is full-toned, and Andres isn't a shy percussionist.

The result is an energetic and exciting group; it isn't “noisy,” but it sure keeps one's attention. The album was recorded live at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, and that also helped; we can hear the crowd response at times, and everybody clearly was enjoying the music.

And we want to join in.

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