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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tisziji Munoz – Parasamgate Nebula: The Death of Death (MRI, 2014) ***½

By Chris Haines

Tisziji Munoz is a free jazz guitarist as well as a spiritual master, although both disciplines are hardly kept as separate entities in his music and much of his music is about expressing a spiritual feeling or contains titles that invoke a spiritual idea or practice.  He has been releasing albums of mainly instrumental music since the late 70’s and has a substantial back catalogue of albums, which can be found at Parasamgate Nebula is part of a trilogy of albums also consisting of Alpha Nebula & Omega Nebula. The album contains eighteen tracks, which are a combination of longer instrumental improvisations interspersed with short spoken word pieces that talk of spiritual enlightenment and contain some atmospheric doodling on synths from John Medeski and chanting from Tisziji’s son Rebazar.  The music was recorded in two sessions, one from 2001 and the other from 2010 but has only been recently released from Tisziji’s archives, with the spoken word pieces being recorded between 2010 & 2012.

Tisziji’s playing contains sections of blistering improvisation where free modal playing mixes it up with more chromatic elements, containing a remarkable rawness and energy about his sound and the fact that he possesses a great technique that allows him to sustain an energetic and up-tempo style of playing.  The way that he approaches the guitar is more akin to a saxophonists ‘sheets of sound’ style in a similar vein to the way that Sonny Sharrock also used the instrument.  The instrumental pieces on this album fall very much into this style of emotional outpouring, whereas on many of his other albums he has worked in a more traditional structure where pieces might start with a theme before gradually developing into something more complicated.  This is not so apparent on Parasamgate Nebula, and although some pieces start with the hint of a more structured and formal riff or pattern, which is only briefly played and is hardly noticeable at times, it immediately moves into complex improvised passages.  This makes the music appear more textural at times and seems to avoid a melodic or harmonically linear bias/focus.

On this album Tisziji is supported musically on the instrumental pieces by John Lockwood & Don Pate on bass and Bob Moses & Tupac Mantilla Gomez on drums and percussion respectively, whose playing doesn’t so much provide an underpinning to the music but more a role of embellishment, allowing Tisziji’s guitar to come to the fore both compositionally and also in the mix.

At first listen the spoken word pieces might seem to detract from the improvised guitar driven pieces, but on further hearings these passages seem to provide an ‘ear cleansing’ opportunity before the intensity of the next fiery improvisation.  For those who are new to Tisziji’s music, Parasamgate Nebula probably wouldn’t be the most obvious place to start, but instead I would recommend trying out some of his other albums, in particular either Breaking the Wheel of Death or Auspicious Healing.


Anonymous said...

I saw Tisziji Munoz a few years back at the Iridium with Paul Shaffer on piano (from 'Letterman', who happens to be a Tisziji protégé), Bob Moses, and Ravi Coltrane. Great show!.. Nice to see he's still recording.

New York, NY