In a career that spans more than 25 years, Michael Musillami has worked extensively as a performer, bandleader/composer and educator.
Critics have called him "a superior guitarist" (John McDonough, DownBeat), "an adroit and creative musician" (Michael J. West, JazzTimes), "a fine composer of notable original music" (Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide) and "a modern-day jazz master" (Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal).
"His compositions develop in leisurely style from quiet simplicity to intricate complexity," explained Jack Massarik in Jazzwise, "and the ensemble playing is civilized, sophisticated and clean." The Boston Phoenix's Jon Garelick adds, "Musillami sounds familiar - this is swinging jazz guitar, after all - but not quite like anyone else."
Born and raised in California, Musillami was inspired early on by musicians including Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans. He studied with renowned guitarist Joe Diorio before moving permanently to the East coast in the early 1980's, working primarily in organ trios led by Richard "Groove" Holmes and Bobby Buster among others.
In addition to paying his dues as a sideman performing with musicians such as Junior Cook, Dewey Redman, and Curtis Fuller, he became a part of the circle of musicians connected to the Hillside Club in Waterbury, Connecticut, including frequent future collaborators Thomas Chapin and Mario Pavone.
He has since led and co-led a variety of ensembles, releasing 15 CDs as a leader and touring in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Along with his longstanding flagship trio with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, he has earned critical notice as the leader of groups ranging from duo to octet featuring such prominent collaborators as Cameron Brown, Thomas Chapin, Drew Gress, Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin and Matt Wilson.
In 1999, Musillami founded the Playscape Recordings label to give himself more control over his recording career, and to provide other musicians with a supportive environment for creative music. Built around a cadre of frequent collaborators, the label has garnered extensive critical praise and a catalog of more than 40 diverse releases. "Like Blue Note or CTI in their prime," writes Signal to Noise reviewer John Chacona, "Michael Musillami's Playscape label has a signature sound."
In addition to his work as a performer, and overseeing the daily operations of Playscape Recordings, Musillami is also the longtime Director of Jazz Studies at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT.