REVIEW: MUMEx Duo — Heat the Silent (LP)
Pianist and composer Louis Siciliano and drummer Mauro Salvatore are no strangers to collaboration. The MUMEx Duo, as they call themselves, is propelled, however, by a sense of mission and I feel slightly humbled before even listening to their latest release. Heat the Silent isn’t experimental, fusion, or avant-garde jazz, though you can make an argument it is; it is something much more ambitious, personal, and bolder.
Siciliano has written about his introduction to what he labels “classical Afro-American” music in the accompanying press materials for the release. He makes it clear by the end of this brief piece that Heat the Silent is nothing less than an attempt to encompass a personal interpretation of modern jazz’s history, present, and future in the body of a musical work.
There are no quantifiable road markers for such an endeavor. All benchmarks for success are internal. I will, however, give it a shot at offering you an objective take on what the MUMEx Duo accomplishes with Heat the Silent. “Variations on ‘Estate’” begins the collection led above all by Siciliano’s lyrical yet free-ranging piano. The ivories are an intensely percussive instrument under his fingers and his ability to practically create an alternate melody line from that leaped out at me with the first listen.
Salvatore maintains a near-ghostly presence during the opener. He’s more active during the second track “When All the People Are Sleeping” and makes an immeasurable contribution. This performance is atmospheric and deeply emotional from the beginning but, as it moves deeper into the composition, some passages are icy with bleak despair. It’s the feeling of being frozen in the night, three fifty a.m. or some ungodly hour, and the world is still. I also hear smoky city nights in this track, blind alleys, and melodies full of long shadows.
The title song returns listeners to sparser ground. Siciliano’s compositions such as this are cumulative efforts, never showing their musical hand all at once, but rather gathering their ultimate effect on the listener over time. Some listeners will perhaps find it a bit too cerebral and prefer more immediate and constant physical engagement with the music; the earlier “When the People Are Sleeping” is much closer in spirit to that sort of fare.
“Beyond the Eight Door” is a dazzler. The hypnotic piano playing from Siciliano shepherds Salvatore’s drums like a hand steering someone falling down a flight of stairs — at first. The method in the seeming musical madness becomes clear fast and listeners can kick back and marvel at the clinic the duo puts on. It isn’t virtuosic masturbatory nonsense that’s an ego statement and little else. You get the feeling, instead, that the duo is attempting to point the way toward jazz’s future.
Photo Credit: Mario Coppola