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Avram Fefer: Calling All Spirits (2003)

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Even though Avram Fefer has been performing on the periphery of public consciousness, he actually has been in the center of several important jazz scenes. As a result, he has absorbed strong influences and contributed to the development of new forms in several jazz centers.

Born in Seattle, moving to Harvard to receive a degree in psychology, going on to the New England Conservatory Of Music to study with George Russell and Ran Blake, moving to Paris for five years to perform with well-known expatriates like Steve Lacy and Sunny Murray, incorporating Arabic and African influences into his music there, performing in acid jazz and Afro-Pop groups, returning to the U.S. to make a name for himself in the New York jazz clubs, and working with restless musicians of various genres like David Murray and James Hurt, Fefer finally is stepping out on his own to claim the recognition he deserves

For Calling All Spirits does more than encapsulate all of the work that Fefer has done to date. It also stands as a unique creation of its own.

All of the tracks being first takes, Fefer is joined by like-minded musicians who possess an instantaneous understanding of the other's musical nuances as they develop during a recording. The fact that Fefer's tone is adaptable to the exigencies of the music, even as it remains distinctive, eliminates the necessity for a chorded instrument. Rather, the trio of horn, bass and drums is more than sufficient to explore the tunes that Fefer presents on Calling All Spirits.

At first daunted by the consideration of playing Charles Mingus' "Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress Then Blue Silk," Fefer's trio solved the challenge of stripping down the instrumentation by stressing Eric Revis' basswork, a bluesy depth here and a Latinesque quote there. Revis and Fefer playing the last three notes of the tune in harmony. Mingus' playfulness, sensitivity and disregard for conventional time infuse the remaining tunes as well.

"Going Nowhere Fast," in particular, teases the listener with rolling-down-a-hill acceleration, frantic zigzagging chase and then a dramatic slowdown. This surrealistic elasticity of time, dripping as it were, means that sometimes the three are in seeming opposition as they choose their own meters, when actually they're joined in common pursuit. And it turns out that these irregular cadences simulate those arising from everyday conversation, as Fefer's group reveals on "Loss (For Flo)." Once Revis sets up the vamp for the composition and drummer Igal Foni creates its chugging motion, it turns out that the free interludes between choruses consist of vocal-like colloquy, Fefer questioning, Revis exclaiming and Foni punctuating.

On "Calling All Spirits, Calling All Poets," Fefer establishes a 12/8 rhythm of shifting accents on which he overdubs bass clarinet lines of harmonic movement while he plays the melody on the same instrument on the other track. Even the second track was recorded in one take, a testament to Cadence Jazz Records' intentions to make the recordings sound as natural as if they were performed in a club.

Possessed of an undeniably spiritual feel for the music, Avram Fefer understands the importance of percussion for connecting with the human pulse, as well as the use of horn lines to express what the heart, in all of its complexity, feels.

Track Listing: Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress Then Blue Silk, African Interlude, Mothers Of The Veil, Guinea, Going Nowhere Fast, Loss (For Flo), Calling All Spirits Calling All Poets

Personnel: Avram Fefer, sax, bass clarinet; Eric Revis, bass; Igal Foni, drums

Record Label: Cadence Jazz Records


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