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Assumptions 2 by Julien Wilson Stephen Magnusson and Will Guthrie

Jazz musicians often give lip service to the true interaction between players in their group, but then don't deliver. Not so with the Australian trio of guitarist Stephen Magnusson, tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson, and drummer Will Guthrie. Sensitive listening and reacting is the main modus operandi for these three young jazz players, and their collective soul has a very intriguing aura indeed. Their original compositions and intuitive improvisations range from free-ish ballad rubatos and hypnotic grooves, to circular vamps and aggressive avant-garde squalling.

The obvious comparison here is to the trio of Motian/Lovano/Frisell which has the similarly rare bass-less instrumentation and approach. But 'Assumptions 2' is more free in its application, and they're not playing any standards. The tunes here have a few simply stated themes at the outset which are used more as mood setters than ideas to be consistently referenced. This can become tiresome in the hands of players with less skill in free playing, or between players who don't pay enough attention to what's going on around them musically. But again, these guys are adept at free playing and they consistently connect with each other through some deep listening. More often than not the music is intriguing.

Guitarist Magnusson seems to play more of a supportive role on this recording, mainly supplying a harmonic and rhythmic canvas for the others to play against. His similarity to Frisell is at times distracting but at the same time serves the music well. In his solo spots he creates a vibe more than blowing chops and shows much restraint - sometimes too much. Saxophonist Julien Wilson seems to be the leader musically here. His technique is prodigious and he has a wide emotional and sonic range. There are passages here where he shows his grasp of, and personal take on, avant-garde playing from the 60s on up through the present w/ gruff, free-wailing screeds which touch on ideas from Ayler through to D.S. Ware. He also has a firm grip on how to play sensitively at low volumes on more ballad-like, changes style material. Very convincing. And drummer Will Guthrie is also a very exciting, adept player. Whether following his partners in an aggressive avant-garde style, sensitive rubato, or groove type feel, Guthrie is consistently elevating the energy of the group and has a very natural swing to his playing.

While there are some moments on 'Assumptions 2' that tend to meander a bit too self-indulgently, most of the music here is very well conceived and played. I've heard before that Australia has a good jazz scene. Here's some proof.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Julien Wilson Stephen Magnusson and Will Guthrie
  • CD Title: Assumptions 2
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Independent
  • Musicians: Stephen Magnusson (guitar), Julien Wilson (Tenor Saxophone), Will Guthrie (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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