Born: March 2, 1965 Primary Instrument: Guitar
One of the most exciting young artists on the jazz and classical scene today, internationally acclaimed guitarist/composer Wolfgang Muthspiel is commanding attention worldwide as an artist of deep integrity, intelligence and daring musicality. A celebrated musician in Europe, the Austrian native is developing an equally strong reputation in the States as a brilliant soloist and collaborator through frequent touring and recording projects.
A contrast of quiet charisma and elegance with dazzling technique and risk-taking musicality distinguishes a Muthspiel performance. His highly personal musical language embraces openness with a compositional structure beyond derivatives. This language reflects Muthspiel's various influences-from Messiaen, Glenn Gould, Bach's lute works, renaissance choral and Austrian folk music to Miles Davis, Prince and Bill Evans-yet is continually evolving out of an ever-inquisitive mind. He is presently at work on a project where he takes his solo performance pieces to a new level, incorporating sophisticated electronic loops, samples and other sound sources with his guitars and violin. In the words of the London Times, Muthspiel is in many ways a quintessential 1990s musician, combining a flawless technique honed by classical training with a restless musical imagination as likely to derive inspiration from Bach as from the blues or the Beatles.
With more than 9 albums recorded under his own name and many others as a sideman, he has toured the globe with his bands and as soloist, appearing at such prestigious jazz festivals as the Boston Globe Festival, Montreux, North Sea, Vitoria, Tanglewood, Spoleto, Jazzgipfel Stuttgart, Leverkusen, Jazzfest Vienna, Arhus Festival, Kopenhagen Festival and Wien Modern, and at clubs ranging from the Knitting Factory to Tokyo's Pit Inn and Paris' New Morning. Some of the musicians he has played and recorded with include Paul Motian, Marc Johnson, Gary Burton, Brian Blade, Django Bates, Tom Harrell, Dave Liebman and Peter Erskine. In March 1999, the Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio headlines for a week at New York's Sweet Basil club; an extensive European tour follows this summer.
His latest project Daily Mirror, a collaboration with the Norwegian singer/songwriter Rebekka Bakken is yet another surprising aspect of Muthspiel's work. (In a recent review in the S?ddeutsche Zeitung, one critic started his article with the sentence: (the most significant aspect of the artist Wolfgang Muthspiel is the notion of CHANGE)
Daily Mirror was the first release on Muthspiel's own label material records, founded in the new millenium. (It's plans and releases can be checked at www.materialrecords.com). An impressive number of recordings released in 1998-99 augment Muthspiel's already extensive discography, including: Work in Progress (Emarcy/Polygram), a compilation of his artistic journey as a jazz guitarist/composer from the years 1989-98; Cy (Lotus records), original compositions inspired by 13 artworks by the great American painter/sculptor Cy Twombly, performed with his brother Christian Muthspiel; American Rhapsody (BMG Classics), on which Muthspiel appears as guest soloist with the Vienna Art Orchestra, playing a guitar arrangement of the piano part in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue; and Fieldwork (Jazzline), featuring a trio with bassist Dieter Ilg and drummer Steve Arg?elles playing rearranged and deconstructed traditional European folk music.
Recordings released in the last few years include Perspective (amadeo/PolyGram), a trio with Paul Motian and Marc Johnson, and In the Same Breath (CMP), a trio with David Liebman and Mick Goodrick. In 1995 Muthspiel formed a trio with the young New York musicians Kenny Wollesen and Tony Scher, recording Loaded, Like New for amadeo/PolyGram. In 1994 his album In and Out (PolyGram), recorded live at Sweet Basil, was released in Europe, Japan and the USA. In 1993 he released Black and Blue (PolyGram) with his sextet featuring Don Alias, Tom Harrell and bass player Larry Grenadier. The Promise, his second album on PolyGram as a frontman, was released in 1991, featuring an all-star cast: Peter Erskine, John Patitucci, Richie Beirach and Bob Berg.
These recordings have garnered high praise throughout Europe and the U.S. In writing about Black and Blue, The Village Voice describes Muthspiel's tricky compositions and an unstoppable groove over which he unveils a solo of Schwarzenegger proportions...These tunes go places, lots of them, and each is more interesting than the last.
In addition to his jazz projects, Muthspiel is active composing for contemporary classical ensembles, and has received commissions from the Ensemble for New Music/Z?rich, the Austrian Ministry of Arts, Klangforum Wien, the Boston-based ensemble Marimolin, violinist Beni Schmid and others. His classical compositions are published by Doblinger, Vienna.
In Vienna, September 1998, the world-renowned ensemble Klangforum commissioned and premiered his piece The Waterfalls of Slunj for chamber orchestra and improvising soloist (Muthspiel on guitar). Received with great enthusiasm by audiences and critics alike, the paper Kronen Zeitung wrote, Wolfgang Muthspiel's piece Waterfalls is a concerto for electric guitar that ingeniously hides its strict 12-tone fabric, revealing splendid harmonic twists which serve as a background for lively interactions between soloist and ensemble. I wish there were more concerts like this.
During the busy 1997-98 season, Muthspiel also played a solo concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and was one of the few artists ever to play a solo concert at the Vienna State Opera House. Broadcast on national radio as part of the Vienna Festival, this concert was described by many critics as a highlight of the festival. This same year Muthspiel served as Artist-in-Residence at Festspielhaus St. P?lten (Austria), where he curated, composed and performed in events ranging from ambient installations to an original cycle of chansons to a jazz ensemble performance featuring Django Bates, Bobby Previte and others. Muthspiel also introduced his project I Never Played With Miles to audiences in Europe with a performance at Jazzfestival Saalfelden, followed by an extensive European tour with bassist Marc Johnson.
The son of an amateur choirmaster, Wolfgang Muthspiel was born in the small town of Judenburg, Austria in 1965. He began studying the violin at age six, then switched to guitar at age 15. Muthspiel studied both classical and jazz guitar at the Hochschule f?r Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria. He won various national competitions for classical music as well as the International Guitar Competition in Mettmann, Germany. At this time Muthspiel was intensely studying and performing the music of Bach; somewhat frustrated by the limited classical repertoire for guitar and greatly inspired by the genius of Glenn Gould and his piano transcriptions, Muthspiel adapted Bach's Goldberg Variations for two guitars, which he also recorded. Muthspiel developed an interest in improvisation early on. Together with his brother Christian, a trombonist, pianist and composer, he formed Duo Due in 1982, which became a forum for new improvised music. Duo Due has performed extensively in Europe, the United States and North Africa and has recorded two albums for amadeo/PolyGram.
In 1986 Muthspiel left Austria and emigrated to the United States, first settling in Boston to study at New England Conservatory with Mick Goodrick and David Leisner. Later he attended Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1989. At Berklee he met Gary Burton, who invited him to fill the guitar chair in the Gary Burton Quintet, left vacant since the departure of Pat Metheny 12 years earlier. With Burton, Wolfgang was featured in close to 200 concerts at jazz venues around the world. He also recorded with him for the GRP label.
A winner of numerous awards and competitions, Muthspiel was chosen by Musician magazine as one of the top ten jazz guitarists in 1994 and was named Jazz Musician of the Year in Austria, 1997, by the Prime Minister of Austria. With the release of Muthspiel's debut album on PolyGram in 1989, CD Review named him one of the artists Most Likely to Succeed; he was awarded the Allstar Award for Outstanding Musicianship; and he won the Gold Medal Award at Musicfest USA, Orlando, Florida, a jazz competition hosted by Downbeat Magazine.
A natural virtuoso. On the electric guitar he can produce sounds as light and nimble as a harp's; on the violin he is alert and steely. Partly composed and partly improvised, his pieces included homages to Stravinsky, his jazz colleague Paul Motian and the Beatles. --Paul Griffiths, The New York Times
Rivetingly original, thoughtful and totally absorbing without being forbiddingly esoteric; firmly structured but allowing just enough space for free individual expression. --Chris Parker, The Times, London