Violinist Mark Feldman may be the link between John Abercrombie's The Third Quartet (ECM, 2007) and Michael Musillami's The Treatment, but there are as many differences as there are similarities between these two guitarists' projects. Abercrombie's group leans more towards a chamber jazz approach that, while not without its occasional edges and unmistakable freedom, is sparer and, at times, ethereal. Musillami's triotogether about as long as Abercrombie's quartetfeaturing bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, swings harder and, when it heads towards the outer limits, does so with greater assertion.
Feldman may be a guest (albeit a relatively regular one) with Musillami while being a permanent member of Abercrombie's group since its inception, but you'd never know it. He winds his way through Musillami's knotty head on the modal "Brooms like he's been playing it forever, and there's the same kind of magical interaction with the rest of the trio when he solos. Not since the late Zbigniew Seifert (1946-1979) has there been a violinist as capable of Coltrane-esque fire and reckless abandon, while remaining equally comfortable with Musillami's lyrical ballad, "Stark Beauty.
Musillami's guitar and amp may create a monochromatic tone, but his attack makes it anything but. His generally warm sound turns sharper, much like Larry Coryell, when he weighs down more heavily with his right hand. And while he's a melodic and economical player on "Stark Beauty, he takes a more angular right turn on the irregular meter of "Human Conditions, where his repetitive pattern, in support of Feldman's solo, leads into his most impressive solo of the set. Rapidly moving from elliptical and gradually evolved motifs to quick tremolos, intervallic jumps and sharp chordal passages, Musillami manages to create a sense of freedom without the kind of aggressive behavior that might alienate those disposed to a more mainstream approach.
The perennially undervalued and stylistically broad Fonda and Schuller, both leaders in their own rights, are not only as dynamically simpatico rhythm partners, but they're just as adept as soloists, demonstrating a similarly selfless concern of working for the material rather than the other way around. The closing "Beijing to Brooklyn, centered around a single pedal tone that's nevertheless milked for all it's worth over the course of thirteen minutes, finds the quartet keenly attuned, as Musillami's nuanced solo leads to another tour de force from Feldman.
A DVD, recorded live a few days before the CD recording session, finds the quartet stretching Musillami's material even further, in most cases nearly double the length of the studio takes. "Brooms is, again, another highlight, with the energy ratcheted up a few more notches. Musillami may not have Abercrombie's cachet, but The Treatment is his best record yet, and the chemistry of his triowith or without Feldmanmakes it one that more people need to hear.
Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar, composer; Mark Feldman: violin; Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums.