Burnt Sugar; Avram Fefer/Michael Bisio: If You Can


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Eclectically inclusive music can often sound clinical or stilted. But when disparate styles are blended seamlessly, the results can be sublime, supporting the notion that it's all music and genre labels are meaningless.

Burnt Sugar
If You Can't Dazzle Them with Your Brilliance, then Baffle Them with Your Blisluth

Such is the case on Burnt Sugar's latest If You Can't Dazzle Them with Your Brilliance, then Baffle Them with Your Blisluth, a sprawling 2-CD set of live performances culled from 2004. Using Butch Morris' system of "conduction , Burnt Sugar mastermind Gregory Tate leads about 20 instrumentalists and vocalists from diverse backgrounds. Each approach is accorded equal weight, erupting in a panoply of sound that is never forced or ironic.

Matana Roberts' alto saxophone roams the range before settling on the classic "Night in Tunisia for a few bars then mutating it as the rhythm section (two bassists and three drummers) set a thick trance-like groove for the swirling horns. A sonar-like sound guides the subdued, psychedelic "Greetings from Takemistu , with the guitars taking a prominent place along Satch Hoyt's flute. Testing a swinging feel on "The Name is Blount - Sonny Blount , the cellos and violin move to the forefront, while Mazz Swift's violin rips a solo tinged with North African/Middle Eastern modes riding the repeating bass figure and percussion on the aptly named "Ostinato .

Tribal toms support the chant-like vocals on "Himatsuri , as strings double the accents for dramatic effect; in the second half, a funky groove kicks in to support the vocalists' rap. Conversely, pianist Vijay Iyer's spare line sets up the hypnotic unfolding of "Mack Jarrett .

Somehow together it all works, though audiophiles be warned: the recording is not pristine, with certain instruments lost in the maelstrom at times. But that is secondary to performances this spirited.

Avram Fefer/Michael Bisio
Painting Breath, Stoking Fire

A session at the CIMP "Spirit Room yielded Painting Breath, Stoking Fire by recent member of the Burnt Sugar family, saxophonist Avram Fefer. He is joined here by the prodigious bassist Michael Bisio, with whom he has played for many years.

Composed by Fefer, the suite unfolds with copious improvisation. The opening "Ancestral Voices appropriately evokes exotic primitivism with a repeating flute figure giving way to ghostly sounds and Bisio's percussive bass reminiscent of an African kalimba. The woody tones of bass and bass clarinet match perfectly for the quick, punchy unison passage of "BC Reverie/Inner Child , which provides a platform for both players to embellish. Fefer blows bluesy tenor sax on "Love (Keepin' on)/Rio Largo y Sinuoso , until Bisio sets up a rhythmic, pulsing line and he offers a sweet, folksy clarinet melody. Exciting bluster reigns on "City Life/Tipping Point , with a taut, strummed bass and long, flowing tenor lines. Throughout the recording, Fefer and Bisio transcend the obvious with an array of sounds and moods that illustrate their inclusive acceptance.

If You Can't Dazzle Them with Your Brilliance, then Baffle Them with Your Blisluth


Disc One: 1- 2. Night in Tunisia; 3. Greetings from Takemistu; 4. The name is Blount - Sonny Blount; 5-7. Ostinato for Octavia Estelle Butler;

Disc Two: 1-5. Himatsuri (Fire Festival); 6. Mack Jarrett

Painting Breath, Stoking Fire

Tracks: Suite for 2005: Ancestral Voices; BC Reverie-Inner Child; Love (Keepin' On)-Rio Largo y Sinuoso; Miss Understood-Glide-Rumblinds (ear to the ground)-Happy Go Lucky; City Life-Tipping Point; Love (Keepin' On)

Personnel: Avram Fefer: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Michael Bisio: bass

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