Eric Muhler formed his quartet originally as a trio in 2005, and the trio was comprised with the talents of Eric Muhler on piano, Michael Wilcox on bass and Rob Gibson on drums in 2005. The trio recorded a CD in 2006 and the music was mostly original material written by Eric. In 2008 the band grew to a quartet with the addition of Sheldon Brown on saxophones. The quartet recorded the CD, "The Jury is Out" on July 26th, 2009 at the Hillside Club (Berkeley, California.) All of the music is Eric's own original compositions. His songs are smooth and flowing like the undulations of the ocean waves rolling onto the shore. The music a blend of smooth jazz with short bursts of fast bebop and some standard jazz in between. The musicianship is flawless.
Eric Muhler began his musical journey with piano lessons at age six, and he pursued his musical interest with the formations of a couple of rock & roll bands ("The Pacers" came together when Eric was only twelve years young; "Edge" when he was 17.) His deep interest in music evolved as he taught himself the blues by listening to artists such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. He went further in his study of music by learning jazz from other established virtuosos (Dave Creamer, Bill Bell, Mike Nock.) These influences has enriched his music beyond smooth jazz. The compositions are dynamic. There is a lot of thought put into every nuance of songs from beginning to end; as each sound is layered upon each other.
The order of the tracks is organized to begin with an easy warm-up song called "Punkly". It is a standard jazz tune with the bass and drum getting the crowd tapping their feet to the beat, while the sax and the piano make them snap their fingers and their heads nod to the music. "Sand Castles" follows with its short piano intro with the saxophone joining to make a duo. This sets it up for a swinging sax solo. I'm a fan of the rhythm section throughout the CD, especially Michael Wilcox's playing.
The mood slows down to a soft melodious song with "Alexandra Cristina AM" that begins with the sax over the piano chords and the bass and drums; then its piano carrying the melody. This song is a journey at 11:07 in length. There's almost a hush, like a pause for breath towards the 3rd quarter, then it picks up again as the song had began; and has a definitive end. This song is followed by my favorite tune of the entire CD, which is the featured title, "The Jury's Out". It's got an avant-garde personality with drama. This has the bass and saxophone racing at 1/16ths. The saxophone drops out and the piano carries the baton while the bass maintains the pace. Did anyone see the movie "Naked Lunch"? This song would be a good addition to the soundtrack.
Next up is "Sun & Clouds" which is a good slow-downer after the suspense and thrill of "The Jury's Out". This song has some very nice solos by each member of the band. It's the second longest track in the collection at 12:45. It has some very nice moments, intertwined with some samba and thoughtful and lazy melody lines. The remainder tracks, "1990 for Jane" and "Jane at Home", I would guess, are a tribute to Muhler's wife, Jane Aguirre. "Jane at Home" has that homecoming feel to it. It's the kind of song a band would close a set as the longest track which allows for a goodbye with lots of grace and gratitude.
This recording does not leave any doubt that Eric Muhler is a very capable composer and arranger who loves what he does, and he plays with other musicians who enjoy his passion.-----ANALYN REVILLA