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Presence of Truth; ... Mastery; ... Joy by Tisziji Munoz

In interviews, mega-Grammy winner Carlos Santana often pays homage to John Coltrane as an early inspiration. That’s a nice nod. Yet despite fumbling attempts at imitation, Santana’s music has never embodied the complex collision of earthly fire and spiritual transcendence of Coltrane’s late work. I used to think it was that six strings simply couldn’t conjure the gods (the devil, sure) the way a sax could. Then I heard Tisziji Munoz a musical visionary from Schenectady, NY who sets fire to his strings with the same furious marriage of Buddhist grace and Christian fire and brimstone that Coltrane managed. Munoz’s tone favors the same piercing wail that Carlos digs, but he combines this with Coltrane’s penchant for shards of glass drama and a buckshot blast of notes that gives the sense that the music’s burning through his flesh like stigmata. It’s an original sound that a scant few have heard. That’s because Munoz is a fringe dweller, a spacey mystic who speaks in Ghost Dog-like platitudes (sounds like Carlos again) and releases his own discs with little or no promotion. He does have his cartel of musical supporters, though, and they show for these three recent discs.

Premier is the rhythm team of former Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali and bassist Don Pate. They make a loose but frantic team, perfect for the leader’s helter-skelter pacing. Keyboardists Hilton Ruiz and Letterman side kick Paul Shaffer spar on Mastery and Truth but they don’t hold their own as well as sax man David Liebman does on Presence of Joy, easily the most essential of the three. Liebman’s a strong voice who fights for his solo time (a necessary evil when up against divine intervention), thoughtful to Tisziki’s stream of consciousness. He’s comfortable with Coltrane’s fury and free with Tisziji’s own tunes of furious meditation. Of course, Munoz is the blustery star here and throughout these three works you can’t help but wonder why he isn’t a free jazz household name. I guess when the heaven’s are yours, who has time for earthly delights.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Tisziji Munoz
  • CD Title: Presence of Truth; ... Mastery; ... Joy
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Anami
  • Musicians: Munoz (guitar), Don Pate (bass), Rashied Ali (drums), plus Truth: Hilton Ruiz (piano), Mastery: Paul Shaffer (keyboards); Joy: Dave Liebman (sax), Bernie Senensky (piano), Cecil McBee (bass).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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