Dutch-born guitarist Marnix Busstra tries something different with
Firm Fragile Fun (Buzz Music, 2015). Instead of naming the songs
himself, he invited non-musician friends to assign one-word titles,
based on their reactions to the music. Each title represents an emotion
or atmospheric condition.
Busstra plays guitar, bouzouki and electric sitar. His sidemen are
Rembrandt Frerichs, piano; Arnold Dooyeweerd, double bass; and Pieter
“Firm” is an adventurous piece. One gets the sense of travel, but rather
than a Sunday drive or sightseeing tour, this one’s on a road that has
some wild turns and blind curves. You don’t always see what’s coming.
Busstra plays freely, emoting in the moment. The other musicians are
intense, keeping time while enjoying their own freedoms.
“Joy” has an upbeat, ambient quality, with the piano carrying the lead.
Busstra takes a back seat, playing the bouzouki. The leader plays rhythm
except for his solo at the closing fade.
“Gone,” the closing track, has a haunting introduction. Once the main
theme kicks in, the song becomes a bit of a mellow groove that has a
hint of bossa nova. You wouldn’t be out of line to dance the samba.
In the enclosed booklet, each musician expresses his own take on what
the group has accomplished. The session was done almost entirely without
overdubs. The group did several takes on each song and selected the best
one. On the guitar, Busstra prefers single-note runs to playing chords,
leaving the harmonies to the piano.
Busstra believes in getting in, accomplishing the mission, and getting
out. Eight of the songs are relatively short, maxing out with “Smoky” at
4:31. The other tracks are between six and seven minutes. The entire set
is a modest 47 minutes.