Album: The Tree on Saffron Path by Cameron Mizell


On this latest Cameron Mizell release, we find a quartet of extremely proficient musicians executing sophisticated compositions that travel from the realms on chamber music, to Christmas music, then all the way to improvisation-based folk jazz, and then back, all the time remaining clean, cinematic, easy to follow, and loaded with a distinctive character that makes each note counts.


A prominent figure in the diverse musical landscape of Brooklyn, Cameron Mizell is a composer and a guitarist whose spheres of cinematic jazz and improv music revolve around the concept of economy, which is why to Mizell, each note on the sheet counts, and if a note is sufficient, no more should be added, and he readily applies this philosophy to compositions on ‘The Tree on Saffron Path’, even if it is hard to see at times. On ‘The Tree on Saffron Path’, Mizell features a string section accompaniment composed of violinists Concetta Abbate and Zosha Warpeha, playing 4 and 5 stringed violins respectively, alongside cellist Julie Kim, and the 4 of them easily weave together tapestries that provoke nostalgia, festivity, or melancholy, inducing hypnosis, or creating dream-like states.


American parlor music-inspired moments are abundant on ‘The Tree on Saffron Path’. The serene textures created by the strings, mixed in a roomy fashion that sounds intimate and adds warmth, always creates an atmosphere of folk being performed for a rich clientele in American countryside parlors in the 19th century. Audible particularly well on ‘An Unclaimed Piece of Land’ and ‘She Wants To Believe’, the former sounding like a soundtrack for a warm gathering of generations, with its super prominent violin solo duet, and the latter a perfect backdrop for a wedding ceremony, romantic, lifting, and sweet.


The melancholic sophomore piece, ‘Never Felt The Wind’, is an immediate standout among the album’s tracklist. With a focus on rich harmonic and melodic content, the song’s writhing harmonic composition and impressionistic guitar leads played on top are among the album’s most inspired and immersive. Discussing the stunning ‘Remember When We Were Old’ is probably the right time to mention how utterly beautiful the sounds of the recorded guitars are. Cameron Mizell’s light and balanced touch, combined with the roomy, approachable tones produced by his semi-hollow electrics are magical throughout. The improvised part on the piece is a dazzling display of Mizell’s sensibilities and his tight bond with his instrument and is among the album’s tastiest passages.


The calculated one-two hit of ‘Strange Behavior’ followed by ‘Light, Trapped Under a Cloud’ is distinctive. The two cuts are primarily revolving around intricate guitar lines, largely layered, supported by the strings, and while the first is built around a cyclic motif that toys with dissonance in its notes, that proceeds to get more intense as the strings come in dissonant as well, the second one is a driving, melodically fulfilling piece that sees the guitar played rhythmically as the strings soar in the background, the two elements performing an intricate, melodic dance sequence.


Inspired by legends such as Bill Frisell and Philip Glass, it comes as no surprise that the music Cameron Mizell puts out will ultimately be thoughtful, sophisticated, and rich, and it was exciting to see how his reversal of his composing technique managed to bring out another dimension to his musicality. Mizell composed his previous solo release, during the year of the pandemic as a way to cope with things, by improvising ambient layers, and then improvising melodies on top of them, and ‘The Tree on Saffron Path’ seen a reversal in this process, as Mizell started his compositions with melodies or phrases, and then devised harmonies to back them, with outstanding results. This album is a weighted addition to the already healthy catalog of one of Brooklyn’s hidden gems.


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