“Heat the Silent” by Louis Siciliano’s MUMEx Duo

Heat the Silent is a seven track jazz tour de force that takes on any style it likes and doesn’t sweat a second. It’s effortless. It is the latest release from the powerful modern jazz tandem the MUMEx Duo featuring the talents of pianist Louis Siciliano and drummer Mauro Salvatore. Siciliano is arguably the primary creative force propelling the release as he supplies the compositional and conceptual underpinning for the album.

It is a collection of standalone performances, without question, but it is also a tribute statement to a genre of American music that has set the course of Siciliano’s life. Heat the Silent is a ringing endorsement and study of jazz that invokes myriad influences while retaining its own voice. The voice is even apparent in spartan performances such as the opener “Variations on ‘Estate’”. Kicking off such an audacious effort with a muted texture may sound counter-intuitive. It is not though and weaves a memorable mood for Heat the Silent’s opening curtain.

“Thelonious” is spellbinding. It is a rambunctious ride straight out of the gate and Siciliano and Salvatore grip the reins tight. Make no mistake, however, it’s a sinewy and slippery piece that the musicians keep moving, but the precision is something to behold. The piece’s debts are clear. The MUMEx Duo are never imitators, however, and what you get from this performance isn’t a sense of tribute but, instead, a sense of the duo advancing the work of past legends.

“Joe’s Island” is Heat the Silent’s marquee moment. It’s spotlessly arranged as the MUMEx Duo builds the performance from a low-key introspective beginning into the widescreen ambition of the song’s second half. Salvatore’s drumming reaches its peak with this track as well. The expanded canvas that the MUMEx Duo takes on with this track could crash and burn, but Siciliano and Salvatore are full of musical ideas that sustain the piece.

“Beyond the Eight Door” is my favorite. It feels like a second and more elaborate take on the earlier “Thelonious”, in some ways, but never for long. The musicianship required to steer such a challenging piece from beginning to end without ever crashing the song into a ditch makes for an invigorating listening experience. “Variazione Senza Fine” brings Heat the Silent to a close as a final example of the masterful songwriting at the heart of this project. The movement from its small scale beginnings into what the song becomes owes much to Salvatore’s drums and his ability to determine the song’s direction. It’s essential.

The song puts an eloquent and impassioned exclamation point on the collection. It is involving, without fail, and does not ever feel like they’re flying over listener’s heads. The MUMEx Duo’s Heat the Silent isn’t the duo’s first release and they are building the sort of discography that posterity will smile on for decades to come. It does that balancing accessibility and technical skill like few jazz duos I have ever heard and I’ll be seeking out their music again.

Gwen Waggoner