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Guitarist Michael Musillami's trio with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller previously released two "worldly CDs for Playscape: the debut, Beijing (2002), and the vigorously creative Dachau (2005). With The Treatment, the trio invites master violinist Mark Feldman to join them for a soaring presentation of Musillami's music. As a guitarist, Musillami kisses up against free jazz and beautifully floats down the mainstream, sometimes within a single phrase. Feldman is a violinist of awesome technical and improvisational abilities, bringing a singular mixture of classical and avant to any project with which he is involved. Fonda and Schuller provide both depth and breadthSchuller has never been so delicate without sacrificing his trademark intensity and Fonda is a sonorous glue, plucking and bowing all over his bass.
While both Musillami and Feldman have ties to multi-instrumentalist Thomas Chapin, until this release, they had not recorded together. On these six elegantly complex pieces, five of which were written specifically for this quartet, they mesh flawlessly for in-tandem guitar/violin themes that break apart for breathtaking solo work.
In addition to the studio CD, there is a 45-minute concert DVD. Shot in glorious high-definition, the music and musicians explode into your living room for extended versions of three tunes. Recorded in concert on Musillami's home turf at Lakeville, Conn.'s Hotchkiss School, where he is the head of Jazz Studies, the wooden stage and walls of the acoustically superb Katherine M. Elfers Hall make for a delightfully warm sound. This suits the nuances of Musillami's guitar and the rich timbre of Feldman's mic'd violin for an exceedingly intimate experience. As his ponytail and goatee have lengthened so has Musillami honed and formed his sound: idiosyncratic melodies, flawless technique and an energetic attack set against unusually-metered rhythms.
Track Listing: CD: Brooms; The Treatment; Stark Beauty; Human Conditions; Mezz Money; Beijing to Brooklyn. DVD: Human Conditions; The Treatment; Brooms.
Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Mark Feldman: violin; Joe Fonda: bass; George Schuller: drums.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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