Primary Instrument: Guitar
Veteran jazz guitarist/composer Michael Musillami is known to critics as a superior guitarist (DownBeat), one of the more imaginative guitarists in jazz (Signal to Noise) and a modern-day jazz master (Edmonton Journal). They have also noted that his distinctive original compositions mine not only the fertile vein of classic jazz but the outer reaches of creative music (Hartford Courant), calling his music honest, frequently surprising, and consistently exciting (JazzTimes).
Born and raised in California, Musillami was inspired early on by musicians including Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans. He studied with renowned guitarist Joe Diorio before moving permanently to the East coast in the early 1980's, working primarily in organ trios led by Richard Groove Holmes and Bobby Buster among others.
In addition to paying his dues as a sideman performing with musicians such as Junior Cook, Dewey Redman, and Curtis Fuller, he became a part of the circle of musicians connected to the Hillside Club in Waterbury, Connecticut, including frequent future collaborators Thomas Chapin and Mario Pavone.
In 1999, Musillami founded the Playscape Recordings label to give himself more control over his recording career, and to provide other musicians with a supportive environment for creative music. Built around a cadre of frequent collaborators, the label has garnered extensive critical praise and a catalog of more than 35 diverse releases. Like Blue Note or CTI in their prime, writes Signal to Noise reviewer John Chacona, Michael Musillami's Playscape label has a signature sound.
Musillami has led and co-led a variety of ensembles, recording more than a dozen CDs and touring in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Some of his notable ensembles include the Motion Poetry quartet and Pivot quintet with bassist Mario Pavone, an octet that performs arrangements of Thomas Chapin's music, and his flagship trio featuring bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller.
His most recent release is From Seeds, which finds him augmenting his seven year-old trio with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich and vibraphonist Matt Moran.
--Lyn Horton, All About Jazz
Musillami has developed a very distinctive guitar voice over the years. His
early work was fluent and well-executed, but in recent years his playing has
matured, along with his writing ability.
--Chuck Obuchowski, Hartford Courant
...he continues to assert himself not only as a very competent performer, but
especially as one of the most innovative composers on the scene.
--Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide
As much as any of their trio dates, From Seeds shows Musillami,
Fonda and Schuller to be one of the finest working units in jazz today...
--Robert Iannapollo, AllAboutJazz-New York
Guitarist Michael Musillami’s appealing brand of inside-out jazz marries
bluesy twang to tasteful abstraction.
--Time Out New York
Musillami is a refreshingly swinging outcat who plays long lines with angular
intervals with lyricism and
--Jim Macnie, DownBeat
A protean player with a prolific output over the past six years...
--Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes
Musillami's intricate compositions are both thematically memorable and ear-
grabbing due to their
--Jay Collins, Signal to Noise
Michael Musillami stands out in the crowded field of jazz guitarists for his
ability to synthesize different
traditions into a personal style.
--Ed Hazell, Boston Phoenix
Musillami commands attention, not with force but with sophistication and
--Bill Donaldson, Cadence
His clean guitar tone, ability to rise over active rhythm sections or dig deeply
into ballads, and often
percussive background playing show not only his influences but also his
commitment to the overall
sound of a group. His own compositions mine not only the fertile vein of
classic jazz but the outer
reaches of creative music.
--Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant
Why Musillami, a critical favorite, continues to fly under mainstream radar is
anyone's guess. Possessing
a rich, hollow-body tone and lightning-quick, angular phrasing, his singular
aesthetic charts a
serpentine course from Grant Green to Joe Morris. His writing blends pithy
melodies and intricate
arrangements with magnanimous group interplay and adventurous
improvisations that are among the
finest new music can offer.
--Troy Collins, All About Jazz