In May 2015 this new Trio releases it’s first recording on the renowned ECM label, followed by a concert tour through Europe. The three outstanding musicians of this Trio share a long history. Muthspiel played with Larry Grenadier in the early 90s in Gary Burton’s Quartet, when both musicians were based in Boston, Massachusetts. Larry also played on three Muthspiel albums: Drumfree, Black and Blue and In and Out. The subtle yet explosive drumming of Brian Blade can be heard on the Duo collaboration „Friendly Travelers“ and it’s live DVD „Friendly Travelers live”. Blade also collaborated on two Muthspiel-Trio recordings with bassist Marc Johnson, the Standards album „Real Book Stories“ and an album of Muthspiel compositions called „Air, Love and Vitamins“. Now these threads are forming a new Trioof three Masters of Improvisation, based on a new book of songs from Muthspiel. There are few rhythm sections in Jazz that incorporate such diverse influences and sound aesthetics: highest craft in the sense of mastering the various parameters on the instrument, and at the same time a totally undogmatic open approach to music-making with a deep focus on the song and the moment.
Jeff Ballard grew up in Santa Cruz, California. He recalls when he was a child laying in bed listening to the music his father would play every weekend: Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Sergio Mendez, Oscar Peterson, Milton Nascimento; how he loved the sound and the speed of Ed Thigpen’s brushes on the snare. “I remember feeling the power of a Basie big band shout chorus which would then suddenly disappear into some quiet dancing riff. It was the swing in it, which excited me the most. I also remember how it felt traveling thru sounds of the jungle in a Milton Nascimento record. The drums, percussion, and voice, would sound as if they either came from the earth or were made of water. And I was so happy to hear the joy of Ella and Louie singing and playing together. I think that that early exposure has made me part of what I am today, especially in regards to my love for sound.” In a community college he studied music theory and played in a big band as well as started working in small groups that played music for all kinds of occasions. At the age of twenty-five he began playing with Ray Charles. After three years of extensive touring with Ray Charles, Jeff Ballard move to New York City where he found like-minded musicians who were drawing on tradition as well as searching for their own interpretation of playing and expression in music. “Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen, Guillermo Klein, Larry Grenadier, Ben Allison…and so many others. I started playing music which was of a more personal nature and which drew from an extremely wide palette of influence.. It is the sound, not the note per se, which touches me the most." Jeff Ballard has also played and toured with Eddie Harris, Bobby Hutcherson, Buddy Montgomery, Lou Donaldson, Mike Stern, and Danilo Perez. He joined Chick Corea in 1999 and continues to play in his various projects. “ I learned so much playing with him during those six years. I encountered thru him a high speed of thought in improvisation and a constant clarity of expression in the music. The chance to play in all kinds of different musical situations like with his sextet Origin or the New Trio or large symphonies brought a heightened awareness of touch to my playing as well. I very rarely used monitors on the gig. It was all about hearing the sound of the instruments themselves on stage." Currently Jeff Ballard is a member of the Brad Mehldau Trio, Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band, performs periodically with Corea, and is a co-leader of Fly, a collective trio with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier. Fly is a sparse unit with a focused approach in which the lead voice often changes instruments, or simply vanishes into a three-way dialogue.
Larry Grenadier was born into a musical family on February 6, 1966 in San Francisco California. By the time he was 16, Larry had a busy career playing with musicians that included Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Eddie Henderson, Bruce Forman, Eddie Marshall, Vince Lateano, George Cables and Donald Bailey. Larry went on to study at Stanford University and graduated in 1989 with a degree in English Literature where he toured with Stan Getz. After graduation, Larry moved to Boston to play with Gary Burton touring the world with his band that included Donny McCasslin, Wolfgang Muthspiel, and Marty Richards. After, Larry moved to New York and began musical associations with a wide variety of musicians. Some of these included musicians Larry had met during his time in Boston and included talents such as Joshua Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jorge Rossy, Mark Turner, and Chris Cheek. In the early 1990′s, Larry first met and played with pianist Brad Mehldau. Brad’s trio that included Larry and Jorge Rossy went on to become one of the major groups of the time. They toured constantly throughout the 1990′s and recorded many influential records. Also during this time Larry played in John Scofield’s band and with Pat Metheny with whom he spent a few years touring with the guitarist in a trio with drummer Bill Stewart. Other musicians Larry played with included Charles Lloyd, Billy Higgins, Michael Brecker, and Paul Motian. Currently, Larry finds himself continuing many of these prior musical collaborations. He focuses much of his touring time playing with Brad Mehldau’s trio, which, since 2004, has included drummer Jeff Ballard. He is also a part of the collaborative trio FLY which includes drummer Ballard and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Larry also tours and records with his wife, singer songwriter Rebecca Martin, with whom he has found a rare personal and musical kinship.
Born in 1965, guitar player Wolfgang Muthspiel now lives in Vienna. He is considered to be one of the most influential guitarists of his generation. 30 CDs with mainly his own compositions document his work as bandleader and co-leader. Being trained as a classical musician he approaches the acoustic guitar with the same ease as improvisation and jazz. His Mozart-loving father encouraged him to start with violin playing at age six. At the age 14, he switched to guitar and started to create his own music with his brother Christian. His interest for improvisation led on to jazz. He moved to Boston/Massachusetts and attended the Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship in 1986 where Mick Goodrick introduced him to complex harmonic worlds. In 1988 he started a 2-year touring period with the Gary Burton Band and acquired an outstanding reputation in the jazz scene. In the mid-nineties he arrived in the capital of Jazz, New York City, where he lived and worked until 2002. This city offered him a unique platform for pursuing different projects. Together with the singer RebekkaBakken he explored the world of the singer/songwriter while with his brother he pursued their common electronic project Muthspiel/Muthspiel. At the same time he acted as a reliable and ingenious sideman for TrilokGurtu, Dhafer Youssef, YoussouN’Dour, Maria João, Dave Liebman, Peter Erskine, Paul Motian, Bob Berg, Gary Peacock, Don Alias, Larry Grenadier, John Patitucci, Dieter Ilg, the Vienna Art Orchestra and many others. After 16 years in the country of boundless possibilities he moved back home in 2002, settling down in Vienna, now being in demand as a virtuosic and creative co-leader and sideman in Europe. In 2002 he founded the label “material records” where he publishes and produces his own recordings as well as albums of other artists. After having toured Europe with his new 4tet (2008) and the duo-project with the drummer Brian Blade (2008) Wolfgang Muthspielfocusses on the trio “MGT” (Muthspiel – Grigoryan – Towner). In addition to his jazz projects, Muthspiel is active composing for contemporary classical ensembles like the Klangforum Wien or the Hugo Wolf Quartet. Most recently he received commissions from the Austrian Esterházy foundation (Haydn Year 2009). Furthermore Wolfgang Muthspiel is conducting the guitar class at the Conservatoire of Music in Basel, Switzerland. Among his current projects is the Duo „Friendly Travelers“ with drummer Brian Blade, the Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio, MGT “From a Dream” with SlavaGrigoryan and Ralph Towner, the „Drumfree Trio“ (with Scott Colley and Mark Turner) as well as an ever-changing Solo Performance incorporating many different guitars and loops. Since 2009 the collaboration with Turkish pianist AydinEsen has led to yet another project by the name of “dream cycle” bringing together contemporary aesthetics of both the classical and the jazz world. In 2012 he released his first recording as a singer entitled “Vienna Naked”. The continuation of this song project is a journey through the world called “Vienna.World” which will be released in 2015 as an album and a movie. These activities did not go unnoticed by several committees: Among numerous „smaller“ awards Wolfgang Muthspiel received the Hans Koller Prize for „Musician of the Year“ in 1997. In 2003 he was voted European Jazz Musician of the Year. Musicians Magazine ranked him among the „Top Ten Jazz Guitarists of the World“.