Avram Fefer's Big Picture Holiday: Shimmer And Melt

Mark Corroto By

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Let's rescue the musical descriptor 'fusion,' a pejorative word used in jazz circles to connote a work of lesser weight and significance. We don't use that word when the jazz fusion is carried out by Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, and in this case saxophonist Avram Fefer. His assemblage called Big Picture Holiday merges not just jazz and rock, but the Afrobeat music of Nigeria, Ethiopia and Morocco, James Brown's funk, blues, and the electricity of New Orleans.

Fefer, a multi-instrumentalist, probably better known in avant-garde jazz circles, released the trio recording Eliyahu (Not Two, 2011) with Eric Revis and Chad Taylor. From those African acoustic rhythms, he plugs-in this session with two electric guitarists, Kenny Wessel and David Phelps, plus Jason DiMatteo's electric bass and the Wurlitzer and Rhodes pianos of Alexis Marcelo.

Hints of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and The Ethiopiques abound. Just as America was born out of the African experience in the New World, African music adopted American pop and jazz, rebranding it their own accent. Fefer's compositions cross the ocean again, drawing on his experience playing African and Mid-eastern music, and in the ensembles of rhythm giant Adam Rudolph.

The music shares the groove notations of Stanton Moore's Galactic and on a track like "Toe Jam," the feel is that of the Talking Heads live album The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads (Warner, 1982) with Fefer drawing deep from his Maceo Parker bag. This is infectious stuff. Deep funk abounds in "Pursuit," opening with bass clarinet, then a reggae pattern keeps the flow. The music wouldn't be out of place backing James Brown, and even in the milder pieces, some of the explorations of Medeski, Martin & Wood. Let's not call this fusion, let's call it world party music.

Track Listing: Squid; Lumbar Strut; Pursuit; Wishful thinking; Toe Jam; Melting; Seventh heaven; Essaouira.

Personnel: Avram Fefer: saxophones, bass clarinet, alto flute; Kenny Wessel: electric guitar; David Phelps: electric guitar; Alexis Marcelo: Wurlitzer piano, Rhodes piano; Jason DiMatteo: electric bass; Chris Eddleton: drums; Todd Isler: percussion (5-7).

Title: Shimmer And Melt | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Ropeadope


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