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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Manuel Muzzu / "From T(h)ree to Four" Album Review

Artist: Manuel Muzzu

Album: From T(h)ree to Four

Released: 2023

Manuel Muzzu is a bassist/composer based in Italy. He is a graduate of the renowned Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, as well as UM in Rome. His music is an eclectic blend of both Latin and Smooth Jazz. At times the band stretches a bit into the tamer side of classic fusion, but never gets too deep into it. The fusion elements are used sparingly which keeps the listen light and accessible to the non-musician, as it is more groove based than most fusion is, but also harmonically quite sophisticated.

Oftentimes when bassists make solo records they tend to overplay, sacrificing the song and groove for a display of chops. That is not the case with this album at all. Manuel Muzzu's taste is what shines through first and foremost. He is clearly an accomplished musician with serious chops, but he doesn't let that get in the way of his compositions. Although the listener is treated to wonderful musicianship, the real prize is a wonderfully listenable album from a group of world class musicians.

A standout song for this writer was the subdued track Lost In. It has a hypnotic almost trippy sense about it. If Pink Floyd were going to add a bit more jazz influenced color to their painting I feel like it would've landed in the area of this fantastic composition. The track is an extended one at 8:27, but doesn't feel long at all. The composition is so chill that it hinges on being lazy, like an old house cat. Beautiful and confident in its subtle movements, reminding me a bit of Riviera Paradise by the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

The very next cut Jeff's Style takes the listener into the smooth jazz realm. Unlike a lot of smooth jazz, this song has a real pulse and breathes with life. The smooth jazz genre feels so programmed and pitch corrected in this day and age that it leaves me wishing there were more productions like this one. Sessions with actual musicians conversing. I miss the push and pull of classic groove oriented smooth jazz made by artists like Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour and David Sanborn. This song is proof that real musicians add a human element that unfortunately has been programmed right off the airwaves. But thankfully there are still artists like Manuel Muzzu going old school and actually playing with people, versus sterile drum loops and keyboard pads that can be found on any Apple device.

With this recording I find myself drawn most to the mellow tracks. The two tracks Right Now and MI are wonderful displays of great musicians stretching in the context of subdued compositions. So much jazz based music feels like rock musicians trying to do something hip by playing a bit out. But with this recording feels like authentic jazz musicians trying to keep it in. They are rooted in the real stuff, but doing it with a modern approach without a hint of rock instincts in it.

This ten track set clocks in at just under 57 minutes and feels like the perfect length. Manuel Muzzu and his band get the point across without overstaying their welcome. The musicianship is unmistakably world class. The production is tight and has a classic sound making me wonder if it was recorded in an analog environment. The mix is well balanced and has a real 70's warmth to it.

The road traveled to the destination matters. In this case, as I stated before it feels like seasoned jazzers pocketing it and resisting stretching too far into the abyss that is sometimes fusion music. When rock musicians stretch into this realm it often feels like a 4 cylinder car winding out in fifth gear while the patient jazz musician sounds like a Ferrari cruising comfortably in third gear, at the same speed. But one is reckless and shaky while the other is relaxed and confident. This album is a great example of the latter. If you enjoy the early days of smooth jazz where it wasn't quite so smooth you will enjoy this album. It goes back to a time when names like Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Steve Gadd and Larry Carlton were making this kind groove based jazz infused instrumental music. A great listen!

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