MUMEx Duo Releases Epic Album

Some devoted music fans will argue that Louis Siciliano’s approach to composition and music-making overthinks what should be, even a form as famously “studious” as jazz. His avowed artistic idols such as Charlie Parker, Cecil Taylor, and Thelonious Monk, to name a few, didn’t pursue such methods. They woodshedded their skills, honed their craft, and played for people.

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Siciliano and his musical partner Mauro Salvatore, however, are approaching the music from a different angle. The idea that rigorous study of a form immediately precludes any chance of connecting with it on a visceral level is a curious conceit. It implies the intellectual and emotional cannot co-exist. The work of Siciliano and Salvatore, collectively known as the MUMEx Duo, is conclusive proof this isn’t the case.

Their latest release Heat the Silent is., in essence, a tribute to Siciliano’s love for the form. Classical Afro-American music is the reference point for each of the album’s seven compositions and, in a sense, moves conceptually as the opening two tracks are decidedly different from the later material. MUMEx Duo’s reach extends beyond the commonplace. They could simply lay out some charts for this material and play, but they provide sophisticated listeners with a rationale behind it all that’s discernible and enhances the overall work.

It is discernible in the development of compositions such as “Variations on ‘Estate’”. This is creation through accretion as Siciliano’s piano lines pile atop each other in unpredictable yet engaging ways. Salvatore punctuates it with well-considered cymbal work throughout the piece. This is a far from traditional straight-forward composition but, nonetheless, engages listeners.

We’re in far more traditional territory, however, with the album’s second cut “When All the People Are Sleeping”. The evocative piece conjures images of urban landscapes soaked in twilight, late night rainy city streets, dim and smoke-filled clubs. There’s nothing directly imitative, however, about the piece. You are instead hearing Salvatore and Siciliano invoke a specific style, yet always with their own distinctive “voice”.

“Thelonious” does the same. Namechecking one of the jazz genre’s undisputable titans sets a high hurdle for any duo to clear, but this tandem makes it sound easy. There’s a dizzying yet dazzling display of musicianship powering the performance bringing listeners along for the ride instead of alienating them with musical virtuosity. It is a fine line to walk and the MUMEx Duo traverse that high wire as if ballerinas.

The assorted “movements” in the album’s title song tie the composition together without any visible patches. “Heat the Silent” returns the duo to terrain they traveled during the album’s first two tracks, but they blend aesthetics here with imagination and deft sensitivity. Fans of the form will marvel time after time over Siciliano’s fleet-fingered piano runs sprinkled here and elsewhere throughout Heat the Silent, The collection’s burning heart, however, comes with “Beyond the Eight Door”. This careening, head over heels descent into pure musical inspiration revels in disjointed beauty while retaining a sharp and enjoyable hook for listeners. MUMEx Duo are continually meeting the moment with their new material and do it again with Heat the Silent.

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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