Saxophonist Avram Fefer follows up the remarkable Calling All Spirits (Cadence) with the compelling, though quite different Lucille’s Gemini Dream. Opting for a quartet this time rather than a trio, Fefer keeps drummer Igal Foni on board and adds a second horn, trombonist Steve Swell. Wilber Morris replaces Eric Revis on bass. Like all CIMP recordings, this is an ultra-acoustic affair, with no mixing or compression or "electronic fiddling," in the words of the CIMP Statement of Purpose. The recording level is deliberately low; certain solo passages are barely audible, in fact, and the Statement of Purpose tells us to "resist the temptation to turn the volume up." The recording is supposed to be experienced as a "concert," a true representation of the group in live performance. When one goes to a live show, however, are barely audible passages generally the norm? It seems that the CIMP philosophy, a kind of musical veganism, can actually deprive the music of its full effect.
Fefer’s tenor sound combines something of the gruffness and playfulness of Sonny Rollins with the searing intensity of John Coltrane. While Calling All Spirits had a free-bop vibe somewhat reminiscent of Rollins’s East Broadway Rundown, the new quartet release veers far more often into complete freedom. Three of the tracks, however, appear on both discs; they are Fefer’s "African Interlude," "Going Nowhere Fast," and "Loss (For Flo)." Back-to-back listens of each contrasting version prove fascinating. (It’s worth noting, for instance, that Fefer plays alto on both versions of "Going Nowhere Fast.") The leader’s hypnotic ostinato-swing invention "Heavenly Places" is another highlight, as is Steve Swell’s angular medium swing line "Cycle of Fits." Swell lays out on "Ripple," a dark and somewhat mellower rubato piece. The title track is collaboratively composed by the quartet.
While Calling All Spirits is a more effective showcase for Fefer’s muscular horn, Lucille’s Gemini Dream is also recommended, as it reveals other facets of Fefer’s identity as a leader and composer.
1. Loss (For Flo) 2. Ripple 3. Cycle of Fits 4. Lucille
Avram Fefer, clarinet, tenor, alto and soprano saxophones; Steve Swell, trombone; Wilber Morris, bass; Igal Foni, drums
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