Michael Higgins

The Moon and the Lady Dancing

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Michael Higgins should impress anyone with his musicality, sense of style, and purely melodic invention. But it is the understated, quiet-fire manner which he plays his electric guitar that is the most telling factor of his personality, translated into modern contemporary jazz. In tow with expert bassist Jay Anderson and the great veteran drummer Adam Nussbaum, the Higgins trio plays in complete simpatico agreement, rarely rising above the medium soft, mezzo piano level. As tasteful as it gets, Higgins showcases his laid-back originals and a couple of standards with the restraint of a wise soul and the tenderness of a pure romantic. This does not mean his playing is uninteresting, but you must listen more closely than normal to pick up all of the subtle nuances of his methodology, and they are abundant. In one instance, Higgins steps up on "In the Outdoors," an assertive, harder edged romp through bop, as Nussbaum leads the charge breaking out in a clockwork rhythm. Other than that, Higgins sets the tone in rising no higher than a restrained modulation. "Kristin's Song" sets the spare tone, and you hear influences of Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Emily Remler, and Steve Khan wrapped up with a ribbon on it. A slight tango nuance during "The Last Farewell" echoes Bill Frisell, "The Little One's" is quick but not loud, and the autumn song "When Colors Turn" is a muted ballad that reflects the process in the changing of leaves' hue, rather than the brighter end result. The title cut is a wondrous circular Terpsichore between the three musicians, clean and cool, evoking images of the full moon and a beautiful lady cavorting at midnight. "Zoot's Blues" is a bit different as Higgins and Anderson unify their efforts on the main line, Anderson's lead out on the yearning "Mourning Mist," and "Forgiveness" reflects the somber reflective mood of a statement by Higgins: "Forgiveness" is about total forgiveness, something I've never been able to do, but I am working on it." Of the two standards "Alone Together" sports a clever chart as a fleet waltz tempo is inserted into a slower 4/4 time, demanding the listener to be more attentive. "In Love in Vain" closes the set in hushed, wishing/hoping fashion, as if the story is far from its conclusion. Michael Higgins is a wonderful guitarist, an unsung hero, and veteran musician not likely to crave stardom or critics' poll results, but deserves a close listen on this finely crafted project of well-rendered jazz guitar music.

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